Thursday, June 24, 2021


Bicknell is past Torrey and a field of grazing bison. It’s where a state-run liquor store is, where we--after days of searching--found wine for Emily’s mother years ago. The highly recommended restaurant next to the Aquarius Motel was shut down, so we had lunch at Sunglow Drive-In (where we dined in).

The Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe was as arty as ever, and “Closed for the Season,” and seemed to be having construction and renovation going on.

There were tourists, mostly Americans. This is a change from the past in Utah, when we’d see mostly Europeans and Asians.

I had to take a picture of the Aquarius Motel sign because people probably wouldn’t believe it. It’s named for the Aquarius Plateau.

The next day, as Emily put it, “We spent a lot of time this morning stumbling around.”

In our post-COVID-19 world, small towns are no longer ready to go at 6 AM. A local told us: “Tourists come here and expect to get coffee at eight o’clock in the morning.” The Wild Rabbit in Torry had a huge crowd of people waiting outside, and Austin’s Chuckwagon was crowded with Americano tourists, and no masks anywhere. We donned ours and grabbed some turnovers to go and a heap of napkins. This must be the “unprecedented tourism” we heard about in Kanab.

Finally, we got in the line at the drive-thru at Dark Sky Coffee, where they had decaf and bear claws.

We sent most of the day hiking at Capitol Reef, where there were NO HUMAN WASTE IN TRASH stickers on the trash bins (yeah, it must be a thing). The otherworldly landscape was inspiring. Literally. Emily got ideas for scenes for her novel. Good. It’s working.

We ate at the Sunglow Drive-In again. Neither of us wanted to try the World Famous Pickle & Pinto Bean Pie.

And at the Aquarius Motel, a peacock could be heard calling.

Next morning, Torrey was still all closed up at 6:40 AM. The parking lots of all the motels were all full. Deer browsed in a front yard.

On Highway 24 we soon saw Martian cliffs glowing in the light of the rising sun. A lone man on a bicycle rode across the fantastic landscape and morning haze slashed with low-slung shadows. There was a Cathedral Valley, and Luna Mesa. Suddenly, I had the “Welcome to Mars” song from Cory McAbee’s Stingray Sam going through my head.

At the junction with the 95, we just had to stop at one of our favorite towns, Hanksville. We took a lot of photos at the dazzling and always inspiring Carl’s Critter Garden. 

And we finally found a place to get breakfast, Duke’s Slickrock Grill, that’s also a shrine to John Wayne with its menu items named after his movies. San Juan de Hollywood is becoming the Patron Saint of Traveling Caucasians. His images is everywhere. He seems to be saying, “Don’t worry, pilgrim, I’ll protect you from these here natives.”

Our next stop was another favorite, Hog Spring Recreation Area. The river was low, so we got to walk the Hog Canyon Trail.

Emily summed it up: “Route 95 kicks butt.”

At Natural Bridges National Monument, we went all the way down the Sipapu Bridge Trail. Sipapu is a Hopi word for a hole in the bottom of a kiva, or pithouse, that symbolizes the portal from which their ancestors came into this world. It was a Journey to the Center of the Earth-type experience.

We met some Korean tourists on the trail.

The CDC’s announcement didn’t change things in the Navajo Nation. Masks are still required. The lockdown is still in effect.

When we checked into the Kokopelli Inn, we were told that the Twin Rocks Cafe was closed Sundays, so we went to Comb Ridge for dinner. They didn’t have Navajo tacos, but I tried the Baja Tostada, that was more “Latin inspired” than Mexicanoid, and Emily got the Whiskey Burger, that didn’t have any whiskey in it.

The restaurant and the tiny town of Bluff were crowded, even with the pandemic still going on. America seems willing to come back with a vengeance. White people are eager to go out and spend money. And this isn’t even summer yet.

We headed home the next day, taking the 261, the scenic route through Monument Valley.

There were some masked hitchhikers on the Rez, unidentified roadkill at the roadside, a solar farm, microwave towers, as the cinematic monuments melted into shark-toothed mountains. Everything was turning into something else. An endless process. We’re just seeing one frame of the movie . . .

Then, I got inspired. 

Suddenly, my brain was flooded with ideas for a sequel to High Aztech. I had thought about it before, but it was all without form and substance. Now I had workable ideas. I took some notes.

I really don’t need another project right now, and I don’t know how marketable it would be, but things are in flux, opportunities are opening up, better be ready.

Yeah, these places are just plain inspiring. These rocks have things to say. We better listen to them.

Friday, June 18, 2021


Chicanonautica, at La Bloga, is all about the upcoming publication of my story “Those Rumors of Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology.


The story is about truckers:


And an anthropologist:

In Aztlán:

And New Mexico:

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Our reason for this Utah trip was to research a novel that Emily wants to write. I was along to be a research assistant and creative consultant, Passepartout to her Phileas Fogg. I’m actually pretty good at that sort of thing. Maybe I should go pro.

She picked me up at work, and there wasn't much traffic so we made it to Flagstaff quickly. Emily's brother Michael had Texas-style brisket sandwiches waiting for us. We spent the night in his studio.

We got up early the next morning, a habit we developed during the pandemic, and ended up cruising to Flagstaff for coffee and breakfast. We ended up at an IHOP on route 66. None of the quirky eateries were open at 6:30 am (another post-COVID development?) The scrambled eggs and hashbrowns weren't bad, but the decaf tasted like dishwater.

Soon we were on the 89, going through the Navajo Nation, which is still locked down after taking a heavy toll from COVID-19. A sign announced a NO DRONE ZONE. We stopped and took pictures at the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River, where they are concerned about people jumping off or throwing objects.

They also don’t want any human waste in their trash receptacles. There’s probably a story behind that. I keep imagining horror movie material.

After the fantastic Vermilion Cliffs, we were soon surrounded by burned forests as far as the eye could see. Natural beauty, then desolation, a different kind of beauty. It took us out of our everyday state-of-mind.

We made it to Kanab early. New structures had appeared all over the small town. Our favorite hotel was under new management. English-speaking tourists were everywhere.

Even though I wasn’t looking for books this trip, as we cruised a couple of thrift shops, I found, and couldn’t resist buying, Thor Heyerdahl’s The Ra Expeditions and Nigel Davies’ The Toltecs: Until the Fall of Tula. Yeah, I could rationalize it as research for my writing . . .

While we were having burgers at Hudson’s Trail’s End, Emily showed me the news of the CDC easing the mask mandate for people who’ve been fully vaccinated. We were both fully vaccinated at this point, but decided that while traveling we’ll carry masks, keep on the lookout for signs and other people wearing masks.

We also picked up some local newspapers for Emily’s research.

We drove out to Coral Pink Dunes where kids had brought their snowboards. We took pictures, but I couldn’t see my phone’s screen in the bright sunlight. It kept switching to selfie mode. Got some shots of me looking serious in a Martian-looking landscape.

Back in town, Emily said, “Kanab just insists on being interesting.”

Still, more of our favorite places were closed or just plain gone. New, modern things had popped up. The Lone Ranger watching an intersection had been defaced. A new world was forming.

Almost immediately after the CDC’s announcement, masks became rare. People reacted as if the pandemic was over. The fact the eased mandate was for the vaccinated was either not mentioned or de-emphasized. The news was full of planned parties and other public events. Then Utah’s Governor Cox said that children could go maskless for the final week of the school year. Just what kind world we would be coming home to?

The next morning, the CDC was thinking about dialing back their announcement.

As we were leaving Kanab, we noticed that a cafe was closed because their staff was overwhelmed by “unprecedented tourism.” NOW HIRING signs were all over Utah. Meanwhile, Governor Cox was expressing concern about “the southern border.”

We passed the Moqui Cave where they serve smoothies and paninis, and there’s a stegosaurus statue out front, and soon we were on the Highway 12 Scenic Byway. A lone Trump flag stood on a hill amid classic, rural Americana and the natural wonders surrounding Bryce Canyon.

“My mind is wandering,” said Emily.

“Mine too,” I replied.

“I’m glad we can have wandering minds together.”

Friday, June 4, 2021



Chicanonautica review Silvia Morena-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night, at La Bloga.

It takes place in Mexico City:

In the 1970s:

Is noir:

And Mexican comic books are an influence: