Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meanwhile, back in Florida

I'm still processing piles of pixels and am learning to be brutal about discarding the junk. I got a new-to-me computer and to keep from overloading the hard drive I'm learning to take a hard look at the hundreds and hundreds of shots on the camera's memory card. I used to keep almost everything and have previously filled up a one-terabyte external drive with photos that I thought one day software would be invented for, software that would transform the garbage into Pulitzer material. I'll go out on a limb here and say nobody, nowhere, will invent any miracle that will save some of the true trash I have in storage. I've even started back on my Flickr pages, deleting the embarrassing stuff. I think to myself, I posted that?! and put a figurative bag over my head. But even though I'm getting better at discarding, I still have to go through every shot and make a judgment on each and every one, and there's always a little wishing and hoping in the background.

I easily had twice as many shots of the two Key West venues I'm showing today, and that's a reason I'm so far behind. I was there a month ago and haven't finished other Key West photos, nor all of them from just about anyplace else. But these two are done.

First is Hemingway's house. I admit to never being a fan but since I was there and it's on the National Register of Historic Places, why not go?

In the past few months I've toured this house, Roosevelt's Little White House in Georgia, and Truman's Little White House in Key West, as well as antebellum homes in Georgia in a variety of styles, and I never know what to expect. People with a lot of money live very well, and people with a lot of money live very simply. The living room, below, was the fanciest room in the house and it's not really all that fancy for a guy with a lot of money and large appetites.

There was too much light coming in the dining room to get a good photo, except for the chandelier, which is pretty in a 1920s kind of way.

The kitchen was also simple but I wonder how much cooking he did. I loved the tile.

One of the tiles. It reminds me of Pewabic Pottery work, in Detroit, but I don't know where this came from.

More pretty tile.

The big windows on the second floor and the cool tile were inviting. I could have a bathroom like this.

Imagine having to chain off the bed. They wouldn't do it if someone hadn't made himself at home.

The view from one of the verandas. Nice.

Out back is a real, genuine cat house. Not being a fan, I wasn't aware of the famous Hemingway cats, except for hearing about the polydactyl population. I just read there are 50-60 of them on the property! My first cat was a polydactyl Siamese and I had no idea it's unusual. Her kittens were also multi-toed. The cats here appear to be well taken care of,

even as far as memorializing them. I wonder how some of them rated names like Marilyn Monroe and some got stuck with Bubba?

Here's the star of the place. Love those toes!

A second set of Key West photos is from a Catholic church. I have a lot of good ones from an Episcopal church that will be done soon; it's much more ornate than the Basilica of St. Mary, Star of the Sea. The Episcopal church has stunning stained glass windows, but the Catholic church has louvered shutters that make it al fresco. It's a tossup which one I like more.

 Don't you love all the natural light flooding in?

 And here too?

 This is the only stained glass window in the place.

 The inviting look from the outside; the cool interior beckoning.

More KW and lots of other places soon, but I'm back in the saddle again at Petrified Forest. Depressingly, no little records management fairies appeared while I was gone to finish off the old work I left undone. It is, of course, what I expected to be the boring stuff, but one box I opened yesterday was half full of financial records from the early 1990s. Lucky for me, there's no records retention schedule in the world that makes you keep them that long. They'll be an easy pitch into the recycle bin.

Thought of the day:

There is, incidentallly, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person. (Dan Greeenberg)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Small towns, USA

One of the best things about traveling the way I do is the serendipity of discovery. Towns whose names on the map are in tiny letters, names I've never heard before, can cause a couple-hour delay. I think I'll cruise through, maybe having to slow to 45, but so many of them trip me up and I find myself parked for an hour or more. Places like Montezuma and Americus, Georgia. Marathon, Marfa, Alpine, and van Horn, Texas. Tularosa and Carrizozo, New Mexico. These places are interesting

You may have noted that I like words that are fun to say, and when I first heard the name Carrizozo I was quite certain the speaker was mashing up the pronunciation, but no. 

The town was founded in 1899 by two brothers who developed the El Paso and Northeastern railroad, and gets its name from tall reed grasses called carrizo that used to grow in abundance. At some point the last zo was attached, pure poetry in my opinion because it changes the accent from the ri syllable to the second to last zo and the short alliteration is nice.

Carrizozo, according to a man I spoke with while wandering around with the camera, had a boom about ten years ago and he says it's been in decline since, but a little later I spoke with a woman who owns a gallery there. She's a transplant from about the same ten years ago, and loves the place and the artists it draws because of low rents and a level of anonymity. She said several artists sell in New York and because of their contracts with galleries there, are forbidden to sell elsewhere. A place like Carrizozo allows them to work in a quiet atmosphere.

I just like the architecture and the effort these small towns that have not yet given up make to breathe a spark of energy into their lives. Here we go:

Religious iconography will stop me in my tracks every time. Fourth World Imports, established 1976 with not one but two Ladies of Guadalupe.

This may have been the library at one time, but now what Carrizozo has is Little Free Libraries. Do you spot the irony of the spelling on the sign?

 It looks like an old saloon, the kind with the swinging doors.

No swinging doors, though, but you have to decide if you'll drink or eat. (Hint: look over the doors.)

The pure joy of fuchsia. Did you know the flower was named after the botanist Leonhard Fuchs? True story. How did the pronunciation go from Fyooks to Fyoosh?

I've seen painted public art objects, mostly portraying animate creatures, all over the place. Orcas, elk, cows, and party animals (donkeys and elephants) in DC; but also open books in Fairfax County, Virginia, and bombs (!) in Marfa, Texas. Carrizozo has half of the DC complement, and they're all over town.

A fairly nondescript building if not for the critters on the roof, and the fun bookstore name.

This sign goes back a ways when not only did you not have to dial the area code, but could skip five more numbers too.

There is something under the rust-colored paint on the facade but I can't quite get it.

This piece of art was in the courtyard with the donkeys, above, and I almost walked past without paying much attention until I saw the label at its foot.

 The Suspended Blade Bridge. I just liked it.

 There's no missing this place.

 Or this one. The red was electric, even under a cloudy sky.

I love Ben Franklins. They used to have the best crafts supplies.

 This building is an artists' studio.

 There's at least one snake and an eagle on this one. It's Art.

I got distracted by the antiques in the windows of this store and missed getting the sign on the front until I got back from White Sands and made a little detour. So glad I did.

It's a really nice font and the sign is still in great shape.

I have so many photos still sitting unprocessed but now that I'm parked again for a few months, I hope to get caught up. Eventually.

Thought of the day:

To find is the thing. (Pablo Picasso)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Black fields and white sands

Before making my three-month stop at Petrified Forest, a friend suggested I detour to Valley of Fires in New Mexico. It's administered under the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park System and is a ridiculously inexpensive place to plug in for the night - all of $9 for water and electric connections. I was there the last two nights with a zip over to White Sands National Monument in between, via Carrizozo and Tularosa.

Valley of Fires is a 5000 year old lava flow. To me, it's a hard place to photograph. From a distance it looks like wide fields of black rock; close up photos show black rock but lack the context of the vastness of the area. I took a lot of photos and discarded most of them. Below is what remains, but first a view from the night before last in the opposite direction of the lava beds. The haze over the mountains isn't smog or fog or rain. It's dust. The closer I got to Valley of Fires the denser it became. Luckily, even though the wind howled all night both nights, most of the dust remained at a distance. I've never seen anything like it.

A paved path meanders in a loop through the lava. The flow is two to five miles wide and 44 miles long; in places, it's 165 feet thick.

I was surprised by the density of the plant life. Unbelievably, dozens of species of plants flourish in this landscape. There are four species of bats that take advantage of collapsed lava domes for shelter. Lizards, barberry sheep, eagles, hawks, owls, quail, insects, and snakes all live here.

Of course, having written that they exist, none of the breathing creatures made an appearance. I had to make do with plants like this cholla cactus.

A dead juniper serves many of the creatures here. As explained in the nature trail brochure, it provides a perch for birds of prey, shelter for smaller birds and animals, and a food source for insects. As it breaks down, it falls into cracks and provides nutrients for new plants and nesting materials for small animals.

This juniper is thought to be 400 years old. Why did they have to bolt a bench right in front of it?

The sky is totally washed out behind the tree because I woke to snow this morning. I kept a wary eye on the laden clouds in the distance, but the clouds moved on around the same time I did.

The snow made for some nice definition that I couldn't get earlier.

Here's another example of the indomitable plants that seem to thrive here.

And finally, something you don't see every day - prickly pear and cholla wearing tiny pearls of snow.

On to White Sands National Monument, established in 1933. Visitor facilities were designed and constructed over the next six years during the Great Depression; funds and labor were secured through the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). The building was designed in the Pueblo Revival Style, and the architects relied on the efforts of local craftspeople for some of the more ornate design elements.  
Canales (roof drain spouts) were formed from halved hollow logs. Vigas (wooden beams) were often made of peeled trunks and hold up the roof of an adobe structure. The ends of these beams extend beyond the building's walls. Latillas are lighter-weight wood slats that run crossways to vigas to provide support for ceilings.

The gift shop in the visitors' center sells snow saucers to be used to surf the dunes. I almost bought one and as I drove into the dunes immediately started the woulda, coulda, shoulda routine, but when the road went from paved to packed sand I thought it was safer to turn around. It would have been another three miles on that road and I've had enough of expensive repairs for a while.

There was still plenty to see as far as I went, acres and miles of gypsum. 

It looks like white-out conditions but it's just overexposure in the hands of an inexperienced photographer.

There's a nice boardwalk connecting a couple of dunes that are being used for research into plant and animal life. It looks like the beach, doesn't it?

It's just as surprising to see plants growing here as it was in the lava rock. They're not as abundant, but they're still here.

The patterns in the sand are intriguing, from minimalist

to something more definite.

I know nothing about Google Plus, but I just got notice that this photo was added from an auto backup. If the link works for you, you'll notice it's one of the snow photos from above. How does Google do that? (Apparently you have to have a Google account to see it. If you don't, what it is is a gif of one of the cactus snow photos that shows snow falling in the foreground. 

Thought of the day:

I used to be Snow White, but I drifted. (Mae West)