Red Or Green

November 6, 2013 § 2 Comments

We left Santa Fe bright and early today after three weeks of moving and settling in our little adobe house. As we are just beginning to feel comfortable finding our way around the city and having staked out favorite places for breakfast or dinner, compared quality and value among the main grocery stores and made acquaintances with a couple of bakery owners and garage mechanics, it’s time to go back to New England for our last winter, sell our house and say goodbye.

The Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa FE, where I totally fell in love with hot and spicy chocolate!

The Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe, where I totally fell in love with hot and spicy chocolate!

Powerfully Delicious!

Powerfully Delicious!

Now  I am eager to eventually become a local in New Mexico and Santa Fe (as opposed to a  mere visitor). However I have a feeling it will take time and dedication on my part to achieve such a goal.

Even if I am fairly confident that, given time,I can learn to pronounce the spanish names and terms correctly, try to look casual in a pair of worn low profile cowboy boots or breathe normally after climbing only 3 steps or walking across a street, I know now that there will be some major hurdles to get over.

And the number one is… eating my chile.

” Red or Green?” that is the question.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, whenever I order from a simple menu of local food, diner food, food truck food or any food that is not considered exotic and fancy, here it comes! I can’t eat my chile! I wont touch my chile! I am just like a picky eater kid with my chile.

Most embarrassingly I don’t even know the difference between red or green! I feel too stupid to ask so I’ll have to find out the hard way: Taste both and compare.

See, the big problem for me is that if an invisible speck of chile touches my tongue, I am afraid I will turn reddish purple, stop breathing and instantly combust on my chair. So I don’t dare yet or I should say have the courage to eat anything that looks remotely spicy, more precisely anything with a spanish name except for Dulce de Leche or Flan.

For example the other day I succumbed and ordered a chocolate lava cake for dessert at a barbecue place. It sounded pretty safe, even after the waitress warned me that it had just a hint of chile in it. I was too embarrassed to change my mind so I said boastingly and probably with a weird smile  ” Oh! I’m sure it’s okay, I’ll take it. Thank you”.

A hint? That’s what they call a hint? After only one bite I forgot what chocolate or vanilla, or sugar or dessert ever tasted like, and drank my whole glass of  ice water in one shot before I could put down my fork in defeat.

I was sad to leave this morning and looking forward to coming back in the spring to resume my “assimilation”. But I was also secretely relieved to know that in a few days and after many miles on the road again I will be ordering New England clam chowder and Boston Cream Pie…with plain, sweet and very bland whipped cream.

Last stop before leaving New Mexico this morning.

Last stop before leaving New Mexico this morning.

Virtual neighbor

October 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

It has been a little over a week since the moving truck miraculously, as it seemed for us,  found our driveway and delivered our old household goods and treasures from across the country.

At the end of the trail

At the end of the trail

We drove over two thousand miles with a car loaded with last minute additional stuff, so many years after the last covered wagon brought settlers westward over a long and treacherous journey, carrying only the bare essentials to start a new home.

I'll always remember when the truck pulled in...

I’ll always remember when the truck pulled in…

In the past year I had been reading journals and letters from pioneer women, fascinated by the stories of their feats, misadventures and tribulations over months-long cross country trips of a lifetime. I have thought of them often since we  left our New England home three weeks ago. Of course there are many obvious differences between what they had to put up with and what my husband and I have experienced on the journey. Obvious because of the progress in transportation, communications, safety, accommodations, and all those  things we take for granted now.  However there is one thing that was not at all obvious for me at first:  the now indispensable help of the internet.

Every day since we arrived in Santa Fe, we have relied on our cell phone internet connection for information that would have taken months to gather from friendly, welcoming neighbors, local word of mouth, or through multiple trials and errors.

Chez Mamou, a great breakfast!

Chez Mamou, a great breakfast!

Where is the closest Home Depot? How do we dispose of our trash; where do we recycle so many cardboard moving cartons? Where and when do the local farmers’ markets take place? Where is the best breakfast place in town? What does a black widow spider look like, or tips on bread baking in high altitude. A few samples of the questions we constantly have asked Siri, and even if she was fairly reliable, unlike a local old timer she didn’t answer with a local accent (we got good laughs at how she pronounced street addresses like “Camino del Cielo” or “Calle Acequia Baja,” for example).

So now what kind of questions can we come up with to have a pretext to meet our neighbors, to hear the local lore, to listen to the views of an old local sage who brings unique, quirky insights on the community, to exchange and compare views on our respective backgrounds. To make friends who, as our neighbors back in New England, might one day come to the rescue when bad weather strikes, or bring vegetables from their garden surplus; whose wayward dog we can safely return to them from our yard; or just to shoot the breeze when we are all out in our driveways?

Our windows on our new neighbor's

Our windows on our new neighbor’s

We can always Skype with our old friends and neighbors back in New England, but no matter how strong the signal is around here the Internet will not bring us close to our new neighbors the way a knock on their door will.

Panhandle Plains

October 15, 2013 § 2 Comments

If you want to have breakfast on the road after you leave Lubbock on your way to Amarillo be prepared to drive about 50 miles before you find a place that will serve anything to eat. Mile after mile we saw nothing but flat land, a couple of small towns, cotton gin plants, farm equipment and truck parts garages, grain mills and their railroad, abandoned homes and gas stations.  Hungry and with our eyes fixed towards the roadsides or the seemingly never ending road straight ahead on the horizon, we sat silently, feeling like total strangers in this bleak end of the world. A place where no one goes anywhere or lives for much.

Abernathy, TX, early .morning on main street

Abernathy, TX, early .morning on main street.

Looking for food on Main Street, Abernathy, it felt like we were in a ghost town

Looking for food on Main Street, Abernathy, it felt like we were in a ghost town.

Finally, in the town of Plainview, past New Deal, we saw a couple of fast food signs and stopped at an IHOP. It was chilly, 48 degrees, with a biting wind and still overcast, but warm inside, serving a hot breakfast.

Further along the road, the skies cleared.

Further along the road, the skies cleared.

An hour or so later the sun came out on the plains.  Looking forward to a walk in the fresh air, we went to Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo.

A flowing creek in Palo Duro Canyon is an ephemeral site.

A flowing creek in Palo Duro Canyon is an ephemeral site.

And tonight we stay at The Big Texan Motel in Amarillo, our last night before Santa Fe and our new home …

A colorful Texas motel,

So different from this morning's world, yet still in Texas.

Texas in Technicolor

A room at Big Texan in Amarillo

complete with a horse hotel,

Horse Hotel

Horses Welcome

A REAL horse hotel!

A restaurant,

Dinner in Amarillo

 

Steak in Texas

Cowboy Dinner

And to top it all off a glorious evening sky…

Glorious evening sky

 

Through The Texas Panhandle

October 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

Back on the road today, we drove from Austin to Abilene to Lubbock in the Texas Panhandle. At last, away from the Interstate, the road was quiet and the landscape peaceful. The sky was overcast with heavy rain or drizzle so we got to see Texas in unusual weather.

On Highway 84 near Abilene

On Highway 84 near Abilene

Goldthwaite, Texas

Goldthwaite, Texas

green meadow in Texas

Texas meadow after a few rainy days

Near Rising Star, Texas

Near Rising Star, population 835.

Lunch here?

Lunch here?

Peabody’s restaurant in Goldthwaite was a bet but it turned out to be a great find. The place looked like a modern concrete and steel barn, industrial decor at its most authentic, where farmers on lunch break where catching up on the topic of the week: the rain!

We could have been in 1970, 80, 90, 2000 or now, no way to tell for sure. Best choice on the menu: a juicy, fluffy slice of meatloaf made by the wife of the restaurant’s buffet server, with ‘tatoes and white gravy, corn bread and glazed carrots…. and mmm, it was good!

Great Lunch at Peabody's

Great Lunch at Peabody’s

Later, back in the car, my husband woke me up around Roscoe to see that we were driving through what turned out to be one of the largest wind farm in the world. We would have never thought that in the Oil State alternative energy projects were also Texas size!

Wind Fr

Wind farms and cotton fields

The landscape changed as we neared Lubbock. Oil wells with their dutiful jack pumps bowing regularly appeared all around us in the middle of backyards, cotton fields, parking lots and abandoned plots.

Oil well near Lubbock, TX

Panhandle Landscape

And in Lubbock, after a steak dinner and

Dinner in Lubbock, TX

Dinner at Bryan’s Place

as there was not much else to do, we finally checked in for the day,Pub in Lubbock, TX

but not before taking one or two last pictures, in Red, White and Blue!Blue door in back street, Lubbock,TX

Oh My! Texas!

October 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

Another 8 hours on the road and we finally arrived in Austin, TX tonight for a 3 day visit with our son and his fiancee.

This is the second weekend of  Austin City Limits festival, so the city is buzzing, packed, and traffic getting into Austin was… actually not so bad!

We are too tired to venture out of our place this evening so we’ll have to wait till tomorrow to get an idea of what this is all about, as bystanders of course, because we don’t have tickets for any of the events.

Anyway, the drive from Little Rock, AR to Austin provided some exposure to local flavor and surprised me in some ways:

I didn't get it at first and my husband had to translate... My knowledge of american slang is severely lacking...

I didn’t get it at first and my husband had to translate. My knowledge of american slang is still severely lacking…

I guess this is another way of saying "I'm from Texas and I'm cool"

I guess this is another way of saying “I’m from Texas and I’m cool”

The driver didn’t even bother to close the driver side door while shopping! I imagine this is part of the ACL festival’s cool dude attitude…

Stay tuned…

Bible Belt

October 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

We left Louisville, Kentucky this morning and arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas this evening. Another long day on the road.

Road food, like street food is exactly what I want sometimes.

Road food, like street food is exactly what I want sometimes.

Highway landscape doesn’t vary much in general and if one doesn’t look closely many states can look the same mile after mile. However, after a while small differences and repetitions start to stand out.

Today we crossed 3 states, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, all part of  “the Bible Belt”, and the consistently recurring sights were: Billboards with stark religious messages, gun shops, adult megastores and firework convenience stores/gas stations.  I kept wondering if these were for the Bible Belt population or for people like us, Northerners, looking for “attractions”  unseen in our part of the country…

Fireworks for every day!

Fireworks for every day!

In between trucks, I got a glimpse of the countryside as we were going through more rural areas. All the trees were still green, the grass wasn’t blue and I saw cotton fields for the first time. This landscape, at times desolate with signs of poverty and isolation,  somehow felt less hostile than the Ohio and Pennsylvania steel and concrete sprawl.

And so far nowhere on this trip did anything look like a postcard.

Cotton fields, seen from our car going at 55 MPH.

Cotton fields in Arkansas, seen from our car going at 55 MPH.

Oh!  And I forgot, we went by a town called Bucksnort, in Tennessee, on the way to Memphis…

To Louisville, Kentucky

October 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

Starting the day with a quiet landscape before long hours of driving through a non landscape of Anywhere, America, of highways, fast food stops exits, neither truly rural nor urban, a semi no man’s land where nature is extinct.

The best part of today

Lake Erie at Sunrise

Louisville for just one night, we’ll see more on the the way back in one month.

The Louisville Slugger Factory

The Louisville Slugger Factory, seen through a window.

Road Trip

October 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

I will remember my summer of 2013  as The Summer Of Milestones. But that story, which is largely responsible for my current writer’s block, will be the subject of another post.

Summer is gone now and today I catch an opportunity to get back to posting:

Day One of a Road Trip my husband and I are taking, from New Hampshire to New Mexico, by way of Louisville, Kentucky and Austin, Texas.

So we left the house this morning, a beautiful New England fall day:

Beginning on a Cool Autumn Morning

Beginning on a Cool Autumn Morning

Foliage, interstate and seven hours later,  a lot was seen, a little was said and heard. Too much and too little to write about and much too tired to relate any, I can only put down a few words and some pictures:

A place to Stay for the night, Dunkirk, NY

A place to stay for the night, Dunkirk, NY

Dunkirk, NY, on the shores of Lake Erie, is exactly half way between our house and were we will stay tomorrow while visiting our daughter in Louisville, KY.

Heading to dinner...

Heading to dinner…Our shadows are like what today feels like.

I think of tomorrow as I fall asleep, it will be new for us.

On the road, sometimes you get your sunset where you can

On the road, sometimes you get your sunset where you can

And this view of the lake, so far...

And this view of the lake, so far…

Better than nothing.

Top of My List

July 5, 2013 § 4 Comments

img010Making lists has always helped me. Not only serving as reminders of things to do but as a way to clear and organize my cluttered mind, especially before falling asleep at night or, when half-awake with my morning tea and paper, I prepare to seize my day.

Being a visual type, I picture the list as a ladder: First I prop it, steady against  the rockface of my day, (sometimes a gentle slope with grassy tufts sparkling with dew, other times a jagged, dark and daunting granite wall heading into the clouds) with each rung ready to be checked off, leading to the top of the hill: a completed list and a sigh of relief . . .

Oh but I wish . . .

Days never happen as planned and The List, standing like the two stones of the Decalogue, becomes a different kind of reminder: where few things, or nothing, has been checked off on time, appearing set on a Sisyphean course.

Still, I love the task of making lists. They are my day’s anchors, points of departure and, when needed, signs of hope . . . it never occurs to me that the task is futile. On the contrary.

So now, this being written down, I am elated and relieved because “posting on my blog” has been on the top of my list, looking at me every morning for too many days.

And tomorrow this “must do” will takes its place again, far back at the end of my list.

Dear Correspondence

April 28, 2013 § 4 Comments

Saved...

Saved…

For the past few days I have been thinking about what to write for this post. The month of April is almost over and nothing happened that I did not expect. My long planned trip to Europe to go visit my mother and attend my goddaughter’s wedding went smoothly and was very pleasant.

Yet I keep thinking a lot about those few weeks and if this month had a theme it would be Letters.

Letters are no longer part of our daily life the way they were when I was growing up. Now when I get mail other than bills, catalogs, miscellaneous printed matter, or mass mailings, I get intrigued, surprised and even suspicious. Is it real or just printed with fake handwriting masking an attempt to solicit or sell me something? Is it personal? Is it bringing news from friends or family? I can’t remember the last time I got a real letter, one that I had to open before I got to my house door, one that I didn’t know in advance what it would be about, one that I would want to put in my correspondence drawer and save.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not going to go on ranting about how we lost the art of writing or that we don’t communicate the way we used to. No, I think email is progress. And a great way to write and communicate. So fast and easy that we write often more than once a day to the same person, adding pictures, news clips, even video clips, without thinking about what the weight of the missive might cost in stamps, or having to date it, put the correct address and even use proper correspondence format and language.

And texting too. In fact I am fascinated with the huge creative and artistic potential this new way of expressing carries. Not to mention tweeting to millions of people at once individually, or as a group of millions, live and in the moment.

But Letters, handwritten, hand mailed, carried and delivered pieces of paper telling about their geographical, cultural and historic origin. Letters where the handwriting is as varied as the personalities of their authors, secretly revealing their state of mind or blatantly showing the level of their literacy. Letters as lasting physical objects. For example, the ones a soldier would carry in his coat for comfort, protection, identification, “love-sake,” or too often posthumous message. Letters that could nourish hope or express what could never be said.

So, this April, Letters had unusual and meaningful impacts for me. First, the letters of acceptance or rejection to colleges for my youngest child that finally came after long months of waiting and speculating. Then, Letters my sister and I took from the desk of my father, who died 6 month ago. The ones he wrote to my mother at the beginning of their courtship. The ones he received from us, his children, from summer vacations or when we were  away at school. The Fathers’ Day cards or the seemingly random correspondence from his friends and colleagues. The condolance ones to my mother that my brother kept for me to read, many times revealing a side of my father I never knew from people I have never heard of. And finally the ones I wrote to him as a child, teenager, young wife, mother, as his daughter, ones he had kept in folders for each of his five children to retrieve and reread one day.