Monday, September 26, 2016

HOMEWARD, AFTER A SPECTACULAR DETOUR


We continued our detour up to Utah. There was a place called Valley of the Gods on the map that sounded interesting.

Meanwhile, we cruised through the Navajo Rez. There is a McDonalds in Shiprock – actually there are McDonalds in most of these Indian towns, announced by large, well-maintained billboards. We passed another Burritos y Más, could it be El Uno? Could one be coming soon to your town? And what about the store with the mythic name of Monsterslayer?

I made a joke about how in Trump's America they'll have to hire illegal aliens to do all the deporting, and they'll take turns arresting each other. Em ordered me to write the story. The problem is by the time I finish it, the election will be over, and the gag will either be irrelevant or illegal.


There are a lot of Navajo murals around Shiprock. A good subject for a photo essay or a documentary. America is creating new cultures and doesn't even know it. Then we passed the headquarters of Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Incorporated. Once we got into Utah, but still on the Rez, a sign said, VOTE FOR FAY BLUE EYES.

And there was datura blooming everywhere.

Unfortunately, the Valley of the Gods was unpaved, too primitive for our vehicle, but the stuff near it was fantastic! Gooseneck State park was amazing!


 

We stood at the Kokopelli Inn in Bluff, Utah, established in 650 A.D.(the town, not the motel). The password for wi-fi was in Navajo.


The next morning was cool and cloudy. Native American flute meditation music accompanied the free continental breakfast. The motel was linear and symmetrical, so I got lost. It was time to head for home.

As we left Bluff, Highway 163 was lined with datura.



The 7-Eleven at the Mexican Hat gas station sold coonskin caps. I decided not to get one. It never gets cold enough for them in Phoenix.

Then we went down through Monument Valley, that Hollywood uses as a stand-in for both Texas and Mars, back to Arizona, through the Rez, and Hopi, where a lone llama was surrounded by cows, and just before Tuba City was a hand-painted sign for dinosaur tracks. What? A Hogan Family Restaurant? Then the Painted Desert, where someone named Jamesita was running for office.


Eventually, it got familiar. Still weird, but familiar.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

THE MYSTERIES OF FARMINGTON


Em decided that we should head home through a place we had never been to. So we went north on Highway 84 to Farmington. We had never been to Farmington, and didn't know what to expect. The name didn't sound inspiring. I imagined a town in the middle of nowhere with a lot farm equipment for sale, cheap.

On the way we saw interesting signs: SOCORRO'S RESTAURANT SPANISH FOOD/PIZZA and MAMACITA'S PIZZARIA. Pizza was a big favorite in this part of the country. And what did they mean Spanish food in New Mexico?

Once again we were in Indian territory. The word Navajo, and complicated native names, were on all the signs. As Navajo began to be replaced with Apache, we filled up at the Red Mesa Express Gas Station. It had little TVs on the gas pumps, tuned to the Bloomberg network. I guess the locals like to keep up with the financial news


Under a cloudy sky, even under the cloud shadows, there were mirages on the road.


In a town called Bloomfield there was a tacky little strip mall called Enchantment Square, with a salon called Paradise.

Later we passed a place called Burritos y Más Dos.


We stayed at the Region Inn, where I picked up a copy of Talon,”Loved my Many, Despised by Some, Read by All,” a free newspaper covering Aztec, Bloomfield, Blanco, Cedar Hill, Farmington, Flora Vista, Ignacio, Kirtland, La Plata, Navajo Dam, Center Point, and SJ County. It had an interesting headline: MYSTERY UNEARTHED AT HUB Ancient remains of Atlantis? Lost Jimmy Hoffa tomb? This mysterious slab was unearthed Monday 8/22 at the HUB courtyard in Aztec during recent renovations. They asked their readers if they could help identify the . . . thing.


Farmington was a lot more interesting than I expected.


Next to the motel was a place called FRMF Choppers. With an impressive sign and murals. Some people were hanging out in front of the biggest mural. When I asked if we could take pictures, a paternal figure ordered everyone to move out of the way, and they did. They looked more like a family unit than a gang. And they were what they call in New Mexico, Hispanos.


Again, interesting. Hispano bikers with Zapatistaoid art! The mind boggles!


Tequila's, the restaurant attached to the motel, also had a nice sign – though in a different style and sensibility. I took a picture of it before we decided to have dinner there. I wasn't expecting much from a motel eatery, but the food was excellent! And they had two impressive murals and a Frida portrait.


Just when I thought I wouldn't run into any more surprises, in the parking lot, I saw a Mercedes with California plates and a Gary Johnson bumper sticker.


There's more going on in Farmington than I could grasp in our brief stay there.

Monday, September 19, 2016

ZIGZAG ORBITS AROUND TRUCHAS


Around the El Malpais Visitor's Center, signs warned of rattlesnakes. A millipede crossed our path before we headed to Truchas through fields of datura-studded lava.




They were roasting green chile in front of the Pojoaque supermarket. I thought I caught a whiff of marijuana. New Mexico is always a bit countercultural.



It usually rains as we approach Truchas. This time there was a gigantic, grey cloud, like a tidal wave crashing down in slow motion, rotating in an attempt to become a tornado. Things cut loose as we reached the mountain roads. Pounding rain. Lightning. Thunder. Muddy water running in the washes.


When we got to the place we usually rent, and settled in, the storm stopped. The sun blazed. Em and I took the High Road to Taos and got lattes at the Wired? Cafe.


Then we went to a thrift store, where Em shopped for clothes, and I found a lot of very interesting used books – including Comte de Lautrémont's Le Chants de Maldoror – that were too cheap to resist.



I also considered that for them, the next stop was the landfill. We can only hope the the archeologists of the future have the technology to reconstruct them from the decay.



Decay. Like the abandoned, dilapidated buildings of New Mexico, the new ruins – some of them from the current century. Truchas has its share.



And a new world springing up in the form of murals, like this one with a green horse in Taos.




Truchas is good place to stay, even if it doesn't have wi-fi – which can be something of a pleasure, like the unseasonably cool temperatures, and using blankets at night in the summer. It's also reasonable and a picturesque drive from Taos, Santa Fe, and Española that are all full of wonders. This time there was a lot of Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin on the ambient radios.




There does seem to be magic in the air. I remember saying at one point,“This is the right way. I remember the dinosaurs.” There was a sign: VEGAN TACOS MADE WITH REAL VEGANS. And we ate at a wonderful place called Mante's Chow Cart, a fast food joint with a delightful local, green chile flavor.



Why doesn't Taos rhyme with chaos? I need to write a story called “Chaos in Taos . . .”



At a visitors center, a vehicle with out-of-state plates was having trouble negotiating a tourist center parking lot. Two elderly hippie ladies (their gender was not obvious at first) got out, and had to help each other walk. This place attracts interesting people.


At one point, Em and I walked over to the family graves of people who owned the house we rent, to pay our respects. As we were there, a rainbow faded in and out over the nearby rain-shrouded mountains. Some kind of magic in that air.

Friday, September 16, 2016

CHICANONAUTICA LEAKS MARTIAN MARIACHI CONFIDENTIAL


Read all about! In Chicanonautica, over at La Bloga!

I blab that I've decided to finish my Martian Mariachi novel.

Better hurry, because everybody is getting into the act:


So, play that Martian music, white boys!



I even get to use the term “doodly-squat.”


Who knows where it could lead?


Monday, September 12, 2016

21ST CENTURY AMERICAN CHARM IN GRANTS


The sign in front of the Zuni pueblo said, NO PHOTOGRAPHY OF RELIGIOUS OF CUTURAL ACTIVITES. I put my iTouch away out of respect as we we drove through. The sky was full of fat, fluffy, flat-bottomed clouds. Then it started raining. Suddenly, it hailed. It cleared up as we left the pueblo.




Clouds swirled all over the sky as we hit the El Morro National Monument. They got thicker as we climbed up to the ruins of the Atsinna pueblo. A raven warned us that we could be struck my lightning. There was thunder. And lightning in the distance, getting closer. We took the raven's advice, and left.




We saw ravens all over on this trip, big ones, strutting around like they owned the place. Don't know if any were brujos in disguise.




We passed the El Morro Ranches Subdivision, and a USE EXTREME CAUTION sign on the way to Grants, “The City of the Spirit,” where we checked into the Super 8, and had another dinner at El Cafecito. The spices on the tacos were subtle at first letting you taste the meat, then they got the inner ears tingling, and the nose running, and made a proper mess.




Back at the motel, TV news of the apocalyptic: a killer earthquake in Italy, tornados in the Midwest, Trump accusing Hillary of being a bigot, and then there's something called the Alt-Right . . . Whither goest thou, America?




Something to ponder in Grants, New Mexico, an old uranium mining town that after the Cold War became a place to stay to see wonders like El Morro and El Malpais. It's Postapocalyptic and Postmodern, but doesn't realize it, which give it a unique 21st century American charm.




How did that large white rabbit (definitely not a native cottontail) become roadkill? Could it be an escapee from a local mad scientist's lab? I wondered as we passed a store with strange metal chairs with lots of electronics attached – like props from a vintage sci-fi flick.




In a drug store I found Alien Amber Ale, and bought a six-pack. It seemed fitting.




After cruising the magnificent desolation of the lava-fields of El Malpais, Em and I explored Grants' Main Street/Santa Fe Avenue/Route 66, with its murals, quaint motorcycle shops, bars, eateries, motels, and strange vehicles. Some are still in business, others dead and abandoned, and often it's hard to tell which is which. Not a ghost town. Maybe a zombie town, but if you say so, it comes to life and objects.




We had dinner at El Ranchero Cafe, in Milan, a little further down Route 66. The walls were decorated with a picture of Zapata in his skinny jeans, and a Villa Wanted poster that offered a $5000 reward for the general. The food was “Mexican Mexican” enough for my mother-in-law, though a poster advertised TACOBURGERS FRIES & COKE X-HOT for $7.99. The tacoburgers looked like Navajo tacos, or Indian tacos as they call them in New Mexico.


Friday, September 2, 2016

CHICANONAUTICA TAKES NOTES FROM THE CROSSROADS



While I'm on vacation, Chicanonautica contemplates at La Bloga.

Most writing advice might as well be drunk:

 
Ray Bradbury was better at it:


As for New York:


And the art of the bestseller:

Friday, August 19, 2016

CHICANONAUTICA SEES LATINOID CONTINUUM FLASHES


As in Chicanonautica reviews Frederick Luis Aldama's Long Stories Cut Short, over at La Bloga. 

It's a collection of what they used to call short shorts:


What they now call flash fiction:


They cut across a lot of borders:


Into a lot of lands, and a lot of dances:

Monday, August 15, 2016

MIDSUMMER ZIGZAG THROUGH FURTHEST ARIZONA



Large, colorful bug-splatters decorated our windshield as we drove out of a Route 66 sunset partially obscured by a rainstorm – that also blotted out one sun dog – as we arrived in Flagstaff. We had planned this getaway some time ago, by coincidence we got out of Phoenix as the political conventions were ending, and the fallout was settling in. Just in the nick of time . . .


The parking lot of the Mountain View – that actually had a view of a mountain – triggered déjà vu. Then Ganesha seals in the office proved it. We had stayed there before.


We had Zipburgers at Miz Zips, a little further along the Route. The other customers were Latino/Indianish guys in baseball caps, and French tourists. We hear a lot of French in Flagstaff.




The next morning we had breakfast at the Galaxy Diner. Flapjacks! Fabulous edible saucers. We didn't give them the opportunity to fly away.


We keep ending up back at the Galaxy. Maybe it really is a galactic hot spot, with travelers from all over the Milky Way chowing down on authentic American food among the Hollywood and Rock 'n' Roll memorabilia. The hot rods and motorcycles are really timespace vehicles.


Then we headed north up Highway 89A.



We stopped a the Cameron Trading Post, where I overheard Nordic tourists trying on Stetsons: “Sömething sömething sömething BUFFALO BILL . . . sömething sömething sömething PEW! PEW!


The nearby Little Colorado River Bridge was nicely decorated, suggesting a futuristic native society.



By the Navajo Bridge, sacred datura was in bloom.


At Jacob Lake Inn, very white people served tasty sandwiches while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was piped over the sound system.

Back on 89A, it was quite relaxing. “The Big Empty," Em called it. No sign of political turmoil, so far . . . A dead porcupine bristled on the median. Then a live deer scurried across the burned-out, growing-back forest. In the distance, rain came down in misty, gray shafts. We almost ran over a chipmunk. Finally, we hit the rain, and a sign warned us of bison.


Then we reached the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A little boy said, “I can't wait to go back to flat, safe Texas.” The Canyon was more than the human brain can take in, as it should be.


On the way back, I took pictures of the rural murals on the shacks on the Navajo reservation until the light went bad.



We had dinner at the Galaxy Diner, with live country music from yodeling, fiddle-playing cowboys.


And the next morning we had breakfast at the Galaxy. Nick Drake's “Black Eyed Dog” played as we came in. We got the same table – three times in a row! Could it be some kind of mystic mumbo jumbo?


Then we visited the ruins at the Wupatki National Monument where signs warned: The removal or disturbance of any natural feature is prohibited.


There's also a preColumbian ball court. Research for that gonzo fantasy novel. All roads lead to unfinished projects – or new ones.


Near the Citadel, colorful collared lizards hung out. The mating season must have still been going on.


In Sedona we grabbed mochas to go at the Java Love Cafe, which is hippy-dippy and across the street from the Coffee Pot.


We tried to have lunch at the skeleton-festooned Haunted Hamburger in Jerome, but there wasn't any parking on the twisty, mountain streets, and it was packed. “Funny thing about paradise,” said Em, “it's always crowded.”


So we had burgers at Bill's Grill in Prescott, on Montezuma Street, that is also Whisky Row and Highway 89. I got an idea for a Trump cartoon. Could a combination skull & crossbones/mushroom cloud work? Is it too subtle for propaganda? The problem is Trump is already such a cartoon, you can't really lampoon him.


I was thinking about that as we drove through Prescott, and Em noticed how white it all was. Another town where all the favorite corporate franchises have been installed so retirees from the American heartland can move in and feel right at home. Someday there will be such places on Mars if we don't watch out.