Thursday, April 10, 2014

Soft porn

The other day Bill the archeologist asked if I'd like to go out to a rock art site. He needed to take some photos of it and knows that I'm interested in all of that history. I really welcomed the break; the work I'm doing has me chained to the computer and it's driving me crazy. I've acquired a hot spot on my right shoulder blade from all the mouse work and I'm going cross-eyed from looking at the screen. I really needed to get away.

He described the art as a woman's leg and I immediately thought of A Christmas Story, but even when he added the leg was in a boot I still couldn't get the image of fishnet stockings out of my head.

It's thought that a survey crew that came through the area around 1870 chiseled the leg into the rock, maybe when they'd finished warming up with their department name and a picture of their horse. I'm sure they'd deny it. I'm sure they'd say it was just coincidence.

Wouldn't you love to know the story behind this leg? Who is she? Why is there an outline of some kind of clothing - a skirt? - etched in outside the leg?  See the curved lines of Ts running along the top and bottom of the leg? When looked at in a larger version, I think they're supposed to be stars, just like the ones right above the boot. What do they signify? All delicious mysteries, especially out of any discernible context.

We were at the site in late-ish afternoon and the sun was casting shadows so this is hard to see, but it shows the survey guys' graffiti (lower left) near the leg. Coincidence? I think not!

Near the porn is the remains of an old stage coach stop on what was the Beale Road. According to the Petrified Forest Museum Association, it may represent the only remaining structure associated with that road. Here's what's interesting about it:

Today Interstate 40 transverses the northern portion of Petrified Forest National Park, however, it is just the latest of several roads and highways that have followed this same route for more than a century. The first major road was the Beale Wagon Road constructed in 1857 across New Mexico and Arizona. It passes through the Petrified Forest just north of present Interstate Highway 40. This road is famous in part because it represented the first and only time the U. S. Army tried to use camels for transportation in the desert. 

Later, portions of this road, including the Petrified Forest section, were used for stagecoach travel along the Star Mail route between Santa Fe New Mexico and Prescott, Arizona.
In 1912 a new road alignment that followed the Beale Road was established. This road was officially designated the National Old Trails Highway and stretched from Baltimore, Maryland to Los Angeles, California. In some places such as eastern Arizona the road was divided into southern and northern routes and both pass through the Petrified Forest. In 1926 the northern route was designated U.S. Route 66.

This is all that's left of the building. The Park Service has specialists in historical renovation, some of which are masons who've come here for a couple of years, a few weeks at a time, to help stabilize the walls. Last year the mortar on the wall on the left was nearly gone, leaving the stones seemingly held together with just daylight. The masons removed the stones and laid them on the ground as they were removed, and then reset them in new mortar. I could not see the difference from the old to the new.

 That's the remains of a fireplace in the far corner.

There was another fireplace in the wall hidden behind the short section on the left.

There are a few inscriptions inside, maybe made by folks hanging out by the fire, waiting for the next stage to show up.

 I really need to have a talk with the archeologist about this.

Right outside the structure I found several pieces of this glass. I could tell from the worn edges that it had been on the ground for a while. Bill said he thought it was window glass.
 Look at the thickness! That has some R value.

There's no question in my mind that the stone for the building didn't fall far from the tree, so to speak.

And one more view with the truck, to show the scale. This was a small place.

I found a Coors can, below, that I'm fairly certain does not date from the mid-19th century. No, in fact Bill noted the two circles on the top, saying they were designed to be pushed in or knocked out with a knife or similar tool, and that Coors made this style can for just a few years. He couldn't remember when so I looked it up. This is what Wikipedia has to say:

These problems [with the design of the old pull tab that would either be tossed on the ground or were dropped into the can to possibly be choked on when the contents were drunk - remember that?] were both addressed by the invention of the "push-tab". Used primarily on Coors Beer cans in the mid-1970s, the push-tab was a raised circular scored area used in place of the pull-tab. It needed no ring to pull up. Instead, the raised aluminium blister was pushed down into the can, with a small unscored piece that kept the tab connected after being pushed inside. 

Push-tabs never gained wide popularity because while they had solved the litter problem of the pull-tab, they created a safety hazard where the person's finger upon pushing the tab into the can was immediately exposed to the sharp edges of the opening. An unusual feature of the push-tab Coors Beer cans was that they had a second, smaller, push-tab at the top as an airflow vent — a convenience that was lost with the switch from can opener to pull-tab.

That was the end of my learning experience for the day, and also the end of the day for me altogether; my shoulder thanked me for not going back to the computer - at least until the next day.


Thought of the day:

Workin' on mysteries without any clues.... - Bob Seger, Night Moves

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Resistance is futile

The hitchhiker (HH) and I went back to La Posada in Winslow for breakfast this morning, the one meal we've never had there. It was, well, great. Mine was a baked polenta/jalapeno jack/roasted pepper/corn salsa/egg concoction. The photo I took turned out lousy so into the trash it went. I guess I'll have to go back and try again. If I have to. HH had a gorgeous waffle with eggs and sausage, on the traditional end of the meal spectrum.

The people who run La Posada are pretty smart. Getting into or out of the restaurant requires a trip through the gift shop; fortunately, it's a very nice gift shop. One day I'm going to break down and get something here, but so far I've been strong. Plus, I owe Uncle Sam money in the four digit amount. We didn't stop on our way in (what?! and postpone a meal?) but we did on the way out. They are accommodating about photography, which some museums I will not mention, OK, the Seattle Art Museum is one, should take a lesson from. I go off on a tangent here, but if the Met in New York allows it, puleeze, Seattle, can you loosen up? When they told me no photography because the work is under copyright, I asked if they considered themselves the copyright police, and please give me my $20 admission back. Now I'm done with this silly issue for a while.

Back to the gift shop. Look at these two cute birdhouses. Tiny little travel trailers from the '50s and '60s that have been refurbished are all the rage according to Pinterest, so it must be true, and this first one is so appealing because of that, and because I'm a vagabond myself.

Spanish influence in the area is shown in the one below, complete with the little wooden cross on top.

Now this I really want. I like the punched tin work that abounds in the shop, and this is the most extravagant piece. It stands about three feet high.

I've seen these dioramas every time I've been there. The box folds closed and the whole thing looks handmade. I'm sure they are. They're maybe 10 inches across.

How do you like the bosoms on the figure on the right? They're figures from Dia del Muerto, Day of the Dead.

This is such a small view of what's for sale. Indian jewelry, pottery, katsinas, and fetishes; Navajo blankets; Mexican punched tin mirror frames, lanterns, and religious icons (that's where I know I'm going to fall into spending sin) - cases and cases of temptation, and filling every wall.

I escaped with my credit card unscathed this time, though, and we strolled through a courtyard before heading home. The courtyard is paved with Mexican pavers, but they're separated with this pretty design. You can't buy these things ready-made, you know, someone spent hours on hands and knees placing each stone individually.

Another pretty touch are these tiled pedestals. Behind the first one you can see people in a cozy seating area, but it was a little chilly for me. They must be from up north.

It's the little things that make a difference, like the wrought iron  on the windows and balconies, and the deep turquoise doors against the terra cotta stuccoed walls. Blue of the sky, red of the earth. It's a common theme around here.

I've photographed this gate before but never had the sense to frame it evenly against the pale green wooden door at the far end of the walkway.

On the same side of the courtyard as the pedestals is this railing on a bridge that spans the pond below. Pretty, pretty, pretty, and so graceful.

Winslow is a Route 66 town and is another victim of the Interstate. I sometimes think if you close your eyes and just listen, you can hear the Bel Airs, the Corvettes, the Fairlanes, and the Edsels, like this one I found in Holbrook, Arizona last weekend, purring and roaring down the streets of small-town America.

But that's not what's happening now. This is what's become of those bustling places of 50 and 60 years ago. The first two below are right across the street from La Posada.

A motel down the street, taking advantage of being in Winslow, Arizona. Instead of Standin' on the Corner, this one boasts of Sleeping on the Corner - the sign at far left.

 I don't know the history of this, but couldn't pass it up.

That was it for Winslow this week but I'll be back. I'm good for several more meals at La Posada before heading out to places near and far.


Thought of the day:

Alas! Where is human nature so weak as in the book-store gift shop?  - Adapted from something uplifting and cerebral by Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, April 4, 2014

Wonders and marvels, marvels and wonders

The time flies here. We've been here two months already and it seems we just pulled in. What I came back to do was clean up the park's servers. Just like anyone, including me I'm sorry to say, when they get a new server, it's a matter of migrating everything on the old one to the new one, junk included. This is not helpful. One of the problems they face is that employees label folders with their own names; what the Admin officer here calls "the Tommy, Susie, Billy files," which is also not helpful when Tommy, Susie, and Billy leave and two generations of employees later on have no idea who they were.

Well, when I got back at the beginning of February the new server wasn't here yet, but there was plenty of other work to do, work I didn't have time for before I left last year. So I fiddled around with that for a while until the Chief of Interpretation, Richard, asked me if I'd clean up the Interp files, preparatory to the move to the new server. Interpretation, as it relates to parks, was a term completely unknown to me before I came here but they're the people who make sense of what you're looking at when you gaze over the Painted Desert or hike the Blue Forest Trail. They're the folks who staff the visitor services desk, answering questions about what's good to see; the ones who use the scientific knowledge of the paleontologist and archeologist and head off to Newspaper Rock or Puerco Pueblo to explain the importance of the petroglyphs and Pueblo IV era ruins; they're the permanent and seasonal Rangers who lead hikes along old Route 66, into the badlands, or to the solstice markers in June, impressing on visitors why this place has meaning. They prepare the newspaper, design and publish fliers and the signs (called Waysides) at the stops along the road, build the website, map out new hikes, develop programs for school groups, and are the face of the park. They also have lots of files spread out over two drives with a plethora of duplicates everywhere. My mission: clean it up. It amounts to a lot of sitting. Hours can go by before I know it, which makes getting out into the park and stretching my legs more and more necessary, so Sunday I headed to the Tepees to see what I could see.

I've parked at Tepees before but have always headed in the other direction, to the Tepees-Blue Mesa Trail, also known as the Blue Forest Trail. This time I headed west into the badlands.

This chunk of rock caught my eye right away. I don't know any answers to the important questions of what, why, how, or when, but it's darned interesting.

I've been spending way too much time on Pinterest lately. If you know what I mean, you have my oh-so-knowledgable sympathy. If you don't know what I mean, save yourself and don't find out. Anyway, one of the topics I follow on that he-devil website is knitting patterns. I'm not actually going to make any of them but that doesn't stop me from looking, and this eroding Tepee-side looks very much like feather knitting patterns I've pinned.

Once I'd climbed up and over the hills and made my way down narrow gullies, I came to a fairly wide wash. By this time I'd lost my bearings but had the idea I was going in more or less the right direction. Plus, I figured I'd have to find one end of the wash or the other, so being the fearless adventurer I am (and having the GPS the hitchhiker gave me safely carabined to my pack with the directions to my wheels plugged in) I just walked. This part of the park doesn't have the spectacular formations and deep ravines I've seen in the Painted Desert, but it was still good. What was wonderful about the wash was the line of bobcat or coyote tracks that I followed from one end to the other. Sigh. I love this place.

See? Lesser formations, different, but interesting. I see these things and always wonder, why? Why are these small lumps still here? Why aren't they scoured to the ground like everything around them?

Here are a couple more oddities. The difference in color and rhythmic shapes are so at odds with the surrounding terrain.

Mud patterns continue to fascinate me. I thought this would be leathery but it broke in my hand when I tried to see how much flex there was.

What's interesting to me about this is the sudden change in texture about a third of the way down. When the hill continues to erode, will there be a hoodoo of loose, jagged rock left standing, or will the bottom third remain relatively smooth as it is now? I feel like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!

I love these scrappers. How they hold on against the odds is a lesson to me. It really is.

Make note of the fissures in the earth. More about them in a bit.

Another treat was the critter tracks and other evidence of two-to-eight-legged life. When I left the wash I got into an area of sand that held onto lots of prints. Nearly every Tuesday the hitchhiker and I ask the Chief of Interp, Richard, and recently the Chief of Maintenance, Kevin, to come for dinner. These are two married guys who wives work elsewhere. I feel really bad for them when coming to our place is the highlight of the workweek, but that's the way it is. I was subjecting them to some of these photos when this next one came up and immediately one of them said, "spider." Could very well be.

I'm not sure about this but it could be a porcupine getting into an ant hill.

This is definitely something going after the ants, but there weren't any prints here.

This is from a trip I took into the Painted Desert a few weeks ago. I showed this photo to the museum's Collections Manager, who has a degree in Zoology, to get an ID - porcupine. The large, smooth footpad and long, curved claws that touch the ground only at their tips make it distinctive. This is what probably dined on the ants.

I'm thinking a lizard, with a little drag to its tail. They were darting everywhere. How do they live?

Maybe a bird? I love this one. Look how the tracks come in from the upper left, get all confused and jumbled up, and make a sharp veer off to the lower left. That is, if I read them correctly.

This is one of my favorite views from the day. The color, the shape, the texture, everything.

It never fails to amaze me.

 More, impossibly balanced.

And more.

There's not a lot of petrified wood in this area, but what I found was pretty.

This patterning is unusual to me; I just haven't seen a much of this.

And then I came across this. I was so immediately smitten, unreasonably charmed, with this anomaly. I texted the hitchhiker to get shoes, hat, and water ready, I was on my way to pick him up. I had something to show off.

I have never, ever, seen anything like this. Remember the fissures I said to take note of? This is what was coming out of many of them - gypsum shards. Delicate, fragile, lovely minerals eroding from the earth. How gorgeous is this?

 The sun shining through.

When I saw one line, I saw them everywhere. Straight lines, like an arrow, splitting the mud.

Except when it breaks to go around obstacles or, as Kevin theorized, the obstacles here took advantage of a break in the surface crust to put down roots.

Isn't it just amazing?

How do they erupt from the dry, hard crust without breaking into crumbs?

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. But they do.

I'd come full circle at the Tepees. It was such a lovely day, rich with discoveries. Y'all need to come to Petrified Forest and spend time on the ground. There are wonders and marvels everywhere.

Thought of the day:

Being creative makes you a weird little beast, because everything is so bloody interesting for some strange reason. - via Pinterest, of course.