Back Along A Golden Road

0

July 17-18, 2019-

It had been three years, since I was last in Colorado. In the words of a waitress at one of my favoured spots, Del’s Diner, in Fort Garland, “That’s just too long!”  Del’s had been a bit of a dive, but had remodeled and was doing just fine.  The food was every bit as good as I remember.

U.S. 160 is one of those roads that make me feel at home, regardless of where I am, along its passage.  The same thing is true of Old 66; Highway 1, along the Pacific Coast; U. S. 30, through the Midwest,; and MOST of U.S. 1.

So, I took the road, from Ulysses, Kansas to its western terminus, in Tuba City, AZ.  A side hop was necessary, for me to take in Sand Creek National Monument.  From La Junta, though, I zipped down to Trinidad, then back up I-25 to Walsenburg, from which I could re-visit my favourite part of 160:  Colorado’s southern tier.  Thus came dinner at Del’s and a long search for a place to stay that wouldn’t mean my budget would need a budget.  Colorado seems to be even more popular than usual, this summer.  That does my heart good.

The Spanish Peaks are a fine greeter, just east of Walsenburg.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The San Juan Mountains, between Del Norte and Pagosa Springs, are a reminder that snow regards the Rocky Mountain State as its summer home. (I’ve been in Colorado, at some point, each month of the year, and seen it snow, each and every month.)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I stopped briefly in South Park, just west of the formidable Wolf Creek Pass, and found a Cal King was the only bed available.  Since I’m not part of a package deal, up and over the Pass I went.  Going through the pricey resorts of Pagosa Springs and Durango, the night drive came to an end at Mesa Verde Motel, Mancos.  There, I was generously offered a room at discount.  It is a “dog room”, the owners being pet lovers, but there was no sign of dog hair anywhere in the room.  Mesa Verde’s owners are just gentle, laid back people, and I  recommend the place for anyone finding themselves tired and on the west side of heaven.

The home stretch began with a stop at Mc Elmo Creek Flume, an irrigation channel, built in 1921.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Seeking to stretch my legs a bit, before lunch, I walked around the City Park, in downtown Cortez.  A laid-back Ute gent, seeking to impress some ladies in his company, started to mock me, while I was walking up the hill. When that had no effect, he asked if i were a veteran. “Yes, I am, and you? ” “You know it, Bro….. Devil Dogs!”  He had the tattoo of a Marine, and though I recall the name being used specifically for those in the Corps, who fought at Belleau Wood, during World War I, I gave him a pass on that.  Everyone deserves a semblance of dignity and respect.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Lunch time was here.  I sadly noted that my go-to place, Jack and Janelle’s, had gone belly up.  A walk downtown showed that there was someplace fairly new:  The Farm Bistro.  I gave it a shot, and am glad of it.  Alex and crew are spot-on, with great cuisine and set a spunky, welcoming ambiance.  Each party selects a plastic animal for its table, as a cue to the server.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My visit to Cortez came to a close, and shortly, thereafter, I was back in Arizona.  Along the drive down the Navajo Nation, I noted that two once grocery-deprived communities, Red Mesa and Dennehotso, now have local markets.  One place that has nothing is Baby Rocks, yet this little village, east of Kayenta, could easily be the next big outdoors thing.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This little wonderland is close enough to tourist-mecca Monument Valley, that a Dineh entrepreneur could easily remove the “Best Kept Secret” label from Baby Rocks.

Going onward, for four more hours, I brought this phase of Summer, 2019, to a peaceful conclusion.  Carson City, and my  Nevada extended family, await next week, after a few days of meetings here at Home Base.  My eyes and heart are always open, to what counts most in life:  Love of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbert’s Fantasy and World Class ‘Q’

2

July 15-16, 2019, Kansas City (MO) (and Olathe, KS )-

In 1959, Wilbert Harrison, a rhythm and blues singer from Charlotte, delivered the signature rendition of the whimsical tune, “Kansas City”- imagining a visit there would bring him romance, which would change his life.

Of course, it was pure fancy and the real Mr. Harrison probably spent no more time in KC than anyone else who didn’t live there.  He did have a good idea, though.  Kansas City has long been a place through which I have driven, en route to somewhere else.  I visited the Truman Presidential Library, in nearby Independence, in 2011, but the big city eluded me-until today.

KCMO, simply put, has the most welcoming hostel in which I’ve yet stayed.  Considering that I have had great experiences in all but one of the hostels I’ve visited in the past four years, that’s saying a volume.  Honeycomb, and its owner/host, Elsa, make every guest feel like family.  This is a woman who has lived a full life, most recently having made an interesting attempt to climb Mt. Everest, which she says will NOT be her last attempt.  Then, there is Max, the house dog, who has his own skateboard, on which he can barely fit.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Max does his skateboard trick, for a piece of cheddar cheese.

There is much to see and do in Kansas City, so this will not be my last time stopping here.  There were two immediate goals for this trip, though:  Finding signature barbecue and getting a handle on downtown.

The first goal was achieved when,courtesy of Elsa, I headed towards Q 39, a medium-sized barbecue palace, in mid-town, and in a strip mall,yet.  There are more stately-sounding barbecue restaurants, recommended by Lonely Planet and Fodor’s, but I’d come back here again, in a flash.  Burnt tips have become this steak lover’s favourite, and no one does them better than Q 39’s kitchen staff.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.

Upon my return, the conversation with Elsa and three other guests, young men who are here for an extended work-visit, left me thinking that a need to slow the cross-country engine down, and actually spend 2-3 days, or more, in a place like KC, as I do in Massachusetts and Carson City-Reno.  Family is as much in the mind and heart, as it is on a tree of ancestry.  No, I’m not implying following Wilbert’s whimsical example; most women I encounter on the road are perfectly content with the men who are already in their lives.  I am seeing the wisdom in matching my intensive mode of exploration with an actual time frame that fits.

Tuesday morning I left Honeycomb around 11 a.m. and headed to Union Station, far more than a place to catch a train.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

As the skeleton implies, here is a top-notch Science City, which is offering a Stonehenge exhibit.  Having been in Carnac and to Cahokia Mounds, I passed this one up, but for the small children going in with their parents, it had to have been a blast.

The interior lobby, though, gives Grand Central a run for its money.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The lobby has a couple of nice little food nooks, so I got a sandwich from Harvey’s, following up with a fine latte and fresh scone from Parisi.  That set me back on the road, for a forty-five minute auto tour of downtown.   Following this excursion, KC’s nice system of boulevards and parkways made wrestling with the construction zones at I-70’s on ramps completely unnecessary.  I was past Kansas City, KS within a half-hour.

Continuing notes to self:  Kansas is making a concerted effort at increasing its foliage.  I make it a point to record all such scenes as I encounter.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

NEXT:  Solemnity and Noise in Eastern Colorado

 

A Temple and Its Concentric Circles

5

July 13-14, 2019, Wilmette-

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I have made it a practice, when going back and forth across North America, to stop at least once at the Baha’i House of Worship, in this leafy North Shore suburb of Chicago.  Often, it is only for two or three hours, before I’m off again, to whatever awaits.  This time, though, I took an Airbnb room, near Wilmette’s Village Center, the better to meet with a trusted friend at her convenience.

The House of Worship is, rightfully, a point of pride for Wilmette’s residents, regardless of their faith, or lack thereof.  The town has a full complement of Christian denominations and an active Jewish temple, as well as several Muslims.  My host, an Iranian-American, who is not a Baha’i, spoke well of our Faith and of the Temple.

My day started, in Wrigleyville, with my helping the most vibrant of the group of hostelers, whom I mentioned yesterday, to charge her phone.  The Hostel’s breakfast master whipped up some incredible pancakes and waffles. Then came the navigation from the parking garage I used, to curbside near the hostel.  A distance of two blocks required me to go around Cape Horn, figuratively speaking.  At one point, I stopped, twice, at the same STOP sign, then inched forward, only to be chastised by a traffic control officer for not stopping a THIRD time.  No ticket ensued, after his partner rolled her eyes at him and signaled me to turn.  That’s Chicago traffic, though, and never anything personal.  A police officer at another spot let me turn onto Sheffield, and I found the perfect spot for loading my car back up.

No freeway was necessary, going to Wilmette.  U.S. 41 North gives one a  nice slice of Chicago’s northwest side, at a leisurely pace, without a humongous amount of traffic, of a Saturday morning.  A fine lunch at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, amongst an eclectic crowd, set a fine mood for the rest of the drive to my evening’s abode.  The ambiance is as important to me as the food itself.  Listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Sunshine of Your Love” was a bonus.

Above a Persian carpet shop sits a modest apartment.  There, I took the spare room, and headed up to the House of Worship.  My focus, after prayers and meditation, is always on the gardens, which surround the Temple, on each of its nine sides.  I have shown these, in detail, in earlier posts.  Here, though, is a small sample.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This is the North Shore Channel, which empties into Wilmette Harbor, between the House of Worship and Gillson Park, which has the village’s lovely beach.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I availed myself of two restaurants here in Wilmette: Ridgeview Grill, which I visited last summer, gave the same excellent fare and service on Saturday night; Walker Brothers Pancake House offered the finest of Sunday breakfasts. (Yes, San Diegans, your very own Richard Walker is a member of this family, and his superb Pancake House is a West Coast extension of the Wilmette establishment, which also has six other branches around Chicagoland’s North Shore.).Suffice it to say, I am getting spoiled by two days in a row of great pancakes.

With breakfast done, and 10 a.m. rolling around, I bid farewell to my host, J., and headed over  to the House of Worship, to meet my friend. On the way, I encountered a crew fixing a broken water main, so prayers were offered for that situation as well.  The Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette (1953) was the second such Temple ever built, the first being in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1908). (It was confiscated by the Soviets, in the 1920’s, then was destroyed by an earthquake.  The property remains vacant, under Turkmenistan government control.)  There are now seven other Baha’i Houses of Worship – one for each continuously-inhabited continent, plus one in Samoa and one in Panama.  National and Regional Baha’i Temples are being built, in several places around the globe.  Each House of Worship is open to all, regardless of Faith.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Wilmette, this time, felt a lot more like home.  The ripples of love and acceptance are radiating outward from this truly divine edifice.

 

Duke City Redux

0

June 17, 2019, Albuquerque-

This morning saw the last vestige of abdominal upset leave me.  Today would be a day for treading lightly and eating slowly.  It did not take long for the Elantra and me to get to Mother Road Hostel, though, and I was pleased to be able to get settled earlier than is the case in most hostels.  An early nap took care of what was left to be cured.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I had hoped to get in a return visit to Blackbird Coffee House, in Old Town, but the parking situation is such that exact change is required for a space, and I’m still not one to offer $10, for a $5 fare.  I did get laundry done, across from Mother Road, ignoring a “plea” from a street person who said he needed coins to do his laundry, yet there was no sign of said laundry, as he stood in front of The Wash Tub.

Mother Road is a thoroughly relaxing place, convenient to both downtown and Old Town, though it was rather toasty today.  By evening, though, with laundry clean and put away, I ventured to the west side of Downtown, and enjoyed a lovely dinner of Minestrone Soup, Vortellini and sauteed vegetables, at Villa di Capo.  Being the days of the Senior Olympics, I was joined by many people my age and older.  This competition augurs well for those seeking a higher quality of life, as people age.  I personally did not take part in the events, but the examples of my contemporaries spurred me to plan a hike tomorrow, at Palo Duro Canyon, south of Amarillo.

Declining spumoni or tiramisu, I bid my gracious hosts farewell, and took a stroll around the Raynolds neighbourhood, taking in both architecture (lots of Art Deco, in downtown Albuquerque) and street murals.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There is a pizzeria, two blocks west of Villa di Capo, which invites patrons with this sidewalk piece.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Java Joe’s, closed for the evening, looks inviting, nonetheless.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Raynolds’ residents seem to be quite active, in addressing the needs of their surrounding area.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

These three poles adorn a middle school playground.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Finally, the full range of the neighbourhood’s vibe is shown here.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Albuquerque was restorative to my health, and a confirmation that hostel life is most suitable to my mode of exploration.

NEXT:  A Spot of “Fun Zone” and A Lighthouse in the Desert

 

 

 

Some Spinach Meal Ideas

13

December 19, 2018, Prescott-

I get tired of the arrogance of the high and mighty.

This makes me look to simple and joyful things,

as a diversion.

Spinach has always been one of my favourite foods.

I will not offer recipes and cooking instructions,

but spinach goes well with:

Feta cheese, especially when baked for 20 minutes,

in a steel or aluminum dish;

Peppers and onions, in a skillet;

Filleted fish, wrapped inside the greenery;

Ground beef, lamb, bison or elk, green onions, sweet peppers,

in a soup, prepared in a crock pot;

As a layer, in a five layer lasagna;

Diced and combined with ricotta,

as a manicotti stuffing.

In summer, spinach is a fine staple,

in any hot weather salad.

Spinach:  Not just for Popeye, anymore!

 

 

Throwback Thursday and Desert Shrimp

16

December 6, 2018, Prescott-

Thirty-eight years ago, today, I met the woman who would change my life, immeasurably, for the better.  Penny and I met in a crowded and very simple house, in Zuni, NM, on the night of a house blessing (known as Shalako). We shared a chair, taking turns sitting down and nodding off, during the all-night ceremony.

We ended up sharing everything else, for close to thirty years, all but one of those years as husband and wife.  As I’ve said before, she’s still looking out for me, in ways large and small, since her passing in March, 2011.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Above, we are flanked by my parents, on our wedding day, June 6, 1982.

We shared many of the same tastes in food, among other things.  We both appreciated healthy and unadulterated ingredients. So, I think she would have liked Desert Sweet Shrimp. https://arizonashrimp.com/

I purchased a pound of these gems, over a month ago, and made two great meals out of them.  The first order of business, when preparing shrimp for a fine repast, is to shell the Caridea (the correct name of the creatures which are bred in this series of well-derived ponds, in Gila Bend, AZ).  Shelling can be done in a variety of ways- the easiest of which is to soak the shrimp in beer, for 8-10 hours. This leads to the shell falling off, almost automatically. I chose to shell each one individually, sans bier, so as to get a feel for the relationship between the shell and the flesh.  Deveining follows, no matter what method one uses for removing the shell.  Deveining means removing the receptacle holding the shrimp’s fecal matter, so it’s a VERY important step.  The Caridea are then rinsed, at least twice, before being added to a recipe.  It took me an hour to properly prepare the shrimp for cooking. Below is an image (Courtesy of Arizona Shrimp Company-all rights reserved) of the actual shrimp that I purchased.

Super_Jumbo_298eccd1-3fe9-46e7-94b1-5b6d9814932d_590x

I prepared most of the shrimp in sopa de camarones (“shrimp soup”), using green onions, chili powder, turmeric and sea salt.   It’s been a favourite of mine, since I first ate it in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, nearly forty years ago.  I used the rest in a small scampi dish, using a recipe posted on In Diane’s Kitchen, https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/114793426/posts/27651 , on September 13.

Both were exquisite meals, which gave me sustenance for over a week.    I hope to visit the actual facility, during a few days in the West Valley and Gila Bend, right after New Year’s.  I also hope the company will continue a presence at Prescott Farmers’ Market, next spring and summer.

This is the first of a series of posts honouring the festive, and deeper, aspects of the great December holidays.    NEXT:  Prescott’s Acker Night.

 

 

But For Now

9

October 23, 2017, Prescott-

Tomorrow, I will write at length about two parts of New Mexico,

but for now, I am content to set my boundaries here, in this room.

Some day, I will likely balance my time between a beautiful little family

and my larger worldwide family,

but for now, I will tend to the needs  of my students and team mates.

Some day, I will be comfortable in the large group of people,

who have recognized the Presence of Baha’u’llah,

but for now, I am patient with my friends who are a bit skittish

about the beliefs I am sharing.

Some day, I will see the world, from a mountain redoubt,

but for now, I am happy to have that world close at hand.

No Black Thursday

3

November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.

 

Thoughts on Thanksgivings Past

6

November 23, 2016, El Centro-  Upon stopping in this slowly revitalizing “capital” of the Colorado Desert, in southeast California, I made it my priority to enjoy breakfast for dinner, and have at a combo, of sausage links, scrambled eggs, hash browns and Chocolate Peppermint pancakes, at the local IHOP.

A flood of Thanksgiving memories ensued, which I now share.  My first memories are of Grandmother Kusch saying that it was a fine thing I enjoyed Roast Turkey with stuffing, as it would be my birthday meal, on many a year.  This was when I was about six, or so.  Most of the school time memories of Thanksgiving time were of the maudlin:  Paper Pilgrim hats, or, as I preferred, Wampanoag headdresses.  I later learned that the Native Peoples of the Northeast were not so given to such attire, though the deerskin clothing that accompanied them, was genuine.

Sis and I liked to mix the various kinds of soda, which we called tonic, in Bostonese.  Root beer mixed with orange Nehi was one of my favourites.  I imagined the crispy bottom of the stuffing was “buffalo meat”, for some strange reason.  Whatever, the whole meal was always marvelous, and I have been able to eat turkey, in various guises, for days on end, throughout my life.

I’ve had mostly fond memories of Thanksgiving, while wishing the good will would always be there.  in 1985, it was, until someone realized it was also my birthday, and she was angry with me, for various things I had not done, in the months prior, and a tongue lashing ensued.  Our subsequent Thanksgivings, and my birthdays since,  went much more smoothly.

I can only recall one Thanksgiving when I was alone.  It was 1981, and I ate at a table for one, at Swiss Village, in Payson.  The service was spotty, and I came away from the meal, vowing to not be totally alone that day, ever again.  I have since kept that promise.

Many Thanksgivings were observed, courtesy of the Robbins family, in Prescott, with two kinds of turkey:  Oven-roasted and deep-fried.  Both were exquisite.  There was also a tofurkey.  It was not exquisite.  The Robbins’ were once known as the family Rabinowitz, but homogenization took that away.  They remain one of the most noble families I’ve ever known.

For the past four years, Aram and I have gone to Julian Cafe, northeast of San Diego.  Penny worked in Julian, for a year, in 1981-82, so the place has a wealth of fond memories- and some of the most delectable apple pie, anywhere.

We will head there again, tomorrow afternoon.

 

Bean Soup

2

January 5, 2016, Prescott-  This is one of those periods when the challenges that get thrown at me, by the Universe, however maudlin they may be next to the plight of countless refugees, come to be seen as blessings.

I have resolved the financial challenge that hit me as soon as I got back here, and the compensation will be in my hands on Thursday.  In the meantime, I am warm, dry and, when I’m not working, occupying myself at home with many of the things that get put off, in the course of a busy life.

One of those things is inventorying the types of beans I have, sitting in the cupboard, and readying a multi-bean soup.  With my crock pot poised and ready, I should have a hearty series of meals awaiting me tomorrow morning.  Beans take time, but sustain me, in the few instances of this First World existence that I find the wallet empty.

Meanwhile, as I ignore calls and e-mails asking for the money I don’t have, my preparations for a more solid future go on.  It’s been a good morning, thus far, and I aim for the afternoon to be just as fine.