Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sometimes you need to get away from it all.

And sometimes, it's time to return and be part of the larger world. 

Between the first of 2023 and February 14, I painted many watercolor sketches to give to friends and family for Valentine's Day. The bulk were mailed around February 7, with one mailed after the day. Here are a few of the paintings I made into cards. About half were actually painted on watercolor paper postcards. But, due to the weight of the paper, I chose to locate envelopes that the cards would fit into and mailed them as first class letters. 

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Under the spotlight: Reading my entry, Evil's Root published for the website, Life in the Time

And, my voice came through the mic just fine.

Thanks and hugs to Amit Ghosh, editor of the project and founder of the Bordersenses Literary Journal. May the memory of my friend Donna Snyder be a blessing to us all.

Image: Poster for 'Life in the Time' book release and reading
At 7:15, a burly fellow sat at the entrance to card people. Near the entrance, neighborhood guys get up, and leave half drunk glasses of IPA on their table. They leave to smoke in the parking lot where unsuspecting car tires will, at some point, drive into the deepest and widest wet pothole in town.

It's a neighborly mix of adobe and cinderblock houses with fenced-in courtyards, small local businesses, large industrial workshops and warehouses, and El Chuco’s Chicano Park that sits beneath the confluence and flyover bridges of US 54, Loop 375, and I-10. If you look up at the exact right moment, you can see semis, amber running lights flying low along the bridge connecting I-10 to Loop 375 West. They look as if a small aircraft is about to crash land onto the International Free Bridge.

An interesting warehouse compound, Old Sheepdog Brewery’s set of graffiti painted boxcars and patio with a food truck fronting its entrance set before an inviting lounge. It sports tall stools and tables and picnic tables outside the bar with a low slung bench made of more boxcar parts. The food truck sits off to the side, its cook chopping fillings for quesadillas and frying up good portions for loaded fries. Before i read around 9:30, we tried their loaded french fries and quesadillas served with a Hot Bastard red sauce. MJ enjoyed their Be Reet porter, while our table mates fancied the Mango and Cash New England IPA, and i had red wine. 

Later, a group of fellows came in carrying big graffiti-style paintings on cardboard with images of Bowie, Cobain, and Marlon Brando as the Godfather, among others. They hauled them up a steep stairway outside the bar and into another studio venue. Back in its previous working life, the stairway might have led to an office of some sort. 

Spoken word poet at the book launch
Ritchie Marufo, who I knew from teaching at UTEP’s FYC program, runs the Barbed Wire Open Mic project on Thursdays at Sheepdog, and began the evening’s event with his instantly in-the-moment composed set of raps, augmented with loops of live percussive sounds and reverb, with a background of the evening’s events.

Once warmed up, several good rappers and a few acoustic guitarists played and sang covers and original songs. Then came a young comic who works at the brewery, and who looks and sounds like he’s 13 (srsly). He built his funny set around the experiences of a minor-looking and sounding kid who’s over 21 and working in a bar. One nervous electric guitarist performed a lively and much appropriate cover of Green Day’s Good Riddance. Fun.

At our table sat our good friend Donna Snyder, a beautiful woman and wonderful poet. Donna runs and facilitates the Tumblewords writing project. She read her piece from the book and a couple of other poems. Poet Kit Wren, a regular facilitator and presenter at Tumblewords and his mom, the poet Robin Scofield, were also there and once Kit finished his readings, i was the next to read after a wonderful singer songwriter who sang original songs about Amarillo and Houston. NB Unfortunately, between the time of writing the original post draft and now, Donna passed away from cancer. It took her quick, which is what she hoped. Her diagnosis of stage 4 cancer came but a few weeks after this event, and left us all in the arts community shell shocked. Donna was a gift for us all and source of strength and encouragement to me. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Will there really be a morning? Braiding the lives of Frances Farmer, Britney Spears, and Sara Crewe

With attention on Britney Spears and the conservatorship that holds her emotionally, physically, monetarily, and psychologically imprisoned, one memoir sticks out: Frances Farmer’s autobiography, Will there really be a morning? (1973). Though portions are disclaimed, as noted in the linked Wapo article, her book nonetheless exposes how independent women (be they entertainers or not) have been “treated”, confined, and silenced. Throughout history many women have been exploited by family, society, their industries, financiers, and thieves; compounded by the medical and psychological practitioners said to "look after" their welfare and bank accounts.

My Dell paperback of Farmer's book looked like those found for highly inflated prices on Amazon and Bookfinder (ave. price over $500 for a paperback in “fair” condition). Sadly, my copy became ballast during a move; no doubt left at some West Texas Goodwill. Given the loss, at this point I am unable to reread or quote from the book; but, her harrowing journey impacted me greatly. 
The title of Farmer’s book comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson, which echoes the questioning of the confined yet brilliant lives of Farmer, Britney Spears, and the fictitious life of the newly destitute Sara Crewe. 

WILL there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like water-lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?

Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!
Oh, some wise man from the skies!
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies!

Frances Farmer 

In his 1983 trace, Estrin attempts to sort Frances Farmers’ life and travels along the road that led to two biopics about her life that were released at that time. The attention that Farmer's life garnered then could be a prototype of the "Free Britney" movement, though it came too late to rescue Frances from her family, the studios, and herself. 

The Unraveling of Frances Farmer
By Eric Estrin
January 23, 1983

FORTY YEARS after her name began fading from public view and 12 years past her quiet death from cancer in Indianapolis, the entertainment industry is at last attempting to give actress Frances Garmer a little compassionate understanding. Not many people made that attempt during her lifetime.

Her domineering mother, a stern, super-patriot, constantly frustrated Farmer by ranting against her idealistic career goals and political beliefs. The Communist party used the young actress in a much-ballyhooed attempt to gain sympathy for its cause in mid-'30s Moscow. The Paramount studio chiefs asked her to grind out one frothy feature after another, disregarding her consuming thirst for artistic growth.
But Farmer, who as a schoolgirl had scandalized her hometown, Seattle, by winning a national essay contest with an entry titled "God Dies," and again later, when she traveled to Russia as winner of a contest sponsored by a left-wing newspaper, could never make herself comfortable as a Hollywood "star." She had angered Paramount by refusing to change her name to something more glamorous; she favored old clothes, little makeup and a rattletrap jalopy as personal effects; and she became associated with unpopular political causes--like migrant workers and loyalist Spain.

In her ongoing battles with Adolph Zukor and the other Paramount power brokers, Farmer made up in ardor what she lacked in clout. After her success in "Come And Get It," she became increasingly critical of the fluffy roles she was offered, and candidly spoke of her disappointment to the eastern press. The only good thing about Hollywood was the money, she said. 

Sara Crewe 

In turn, the cosmopolitan stoic and orphaned hero in Frances Hodgson Burnett's YA book, A Little Princess first published in 1905, a few years into the Edwardian era. 

In Burnett's A Little Princess, Sara becomes destitute upon hearing, with her headmistress, of her father's demise. In turn, she immediately is relegated to a garret above the boarder floor at her former school. She starts life as a scullery maid cum French tutor. Yet, as with Spears, Sara stoically works and remains regal throughout her reduced circumstances. As such, both strive to "go high" when others seek to see her fail and fall. And in the fictional end, it does work for Sara. It's as if she has willed the universe to reverse her economic and social situation and restart her the life she was destined to live. 

...Sara looked rather pale, and it was not to be denied that she had grown very thin, her proud little spirit would not admit of complaints. She had never confessed that at times she was almost ravenous with hunger, as she was tonight. She was growing rapidly, and her constant walking and running about would have given her a keen appetite even if she had had abundant and regular meals of a much more nourishing nature than the unappetizing, inferior food snatched at such odd times as suited the kitchen convenience. She was growing used to a certain gnawing feeling in her young stomach.
"I suppose soldiers feel like this when they are on a long and weary march," she often said to herself. She liked the sound of the phrase, "long and weary march." It made her feel rather like a soldier. She had also a quaint sense of being a hostess in the attic. 

Britney Spears

What awaits Ms. Spears and her personal and professional freedoms, only time will tell. But if her recent Instagram post is any indication, what comes after her court hearing is that she will continue to work and be the person she sees herself to be. In her mind, believing in the fairytale seems to actually help a person weather any storm, and mirrors the attitude that Sara Crewe presented to the world.
Overall, I hope everything it works out for Britney and that she goes on to life the life she wants. 

In her post, Spears writes:
I just want to tell you guys a little secret 🀫 … I believe as people we all want the fairy tale life and by the way I’ve posted … my life seems to look and be pretty amazing … I think that’s what we all strive for !!!! That was one of my mother’s best traits … no matter how shitty a day was when I was younger … for the sake of me and my siblings she always pretended like everything was ok. I’m bringing this to peoples attention because I don’t want people to think my life is perfect because IT’S DEFINITELY NOT AT ALL … and if you have read anything about me in the news this week πŸ“° … you obviously really know now it’s not !!!! I apologize for pretending like I’ve been ok the past two years … I did it because of my pride and I was embarrassed to share what happened to me … but honestly who doesn’t want to capture their Instagram in a fun light πŸ’‘πŸ€·πŸΌ‍♀️ !!!! Believe it or not pretending that I’m ok has actually helped … so I decided to post this quote today because by golly if you’re going through hell … I feel like Instagram has helped me have a cool outlet to share my presence … existence … and to simply feel like I matter despite what I was going through and hey it worked … so I’ve decided to start reading more fairy tales πŸ‘‘πŸ§š‍♀️πŸ¦„ !!!!!

Source: @britneyspears, 06/24/2021. 

In all, these three young women are seen bad girls in their time, and all have followers. Whether it is Farmer being loved by her audiences; Spears who is beloved for her songs, her dance moves, and her work ethic (and now those advocating for her to be released from a soul-crushing and invasive conservatorship overseen by her father); and, Sara Crewe who refused accept the servitute levied against her by her boarding school headmistress. The same boarding school that her father entrusted with her care and education. All these young women are headstrong, focused, and beautiful in their own right. Yet, they are seen as "bad girls," beginning with Frances Farmer, who Spears' life up to this point closely mirrors. Although a fictional creature, Sara Crewe was an invention, yet meant as an exemplum for all to strive to be. She is the fictional embodiment of Michelle Obama's motto: "When they go low, we go high." 


In grade and high school, aside from learning to appreciate fountain pens, reel-to-reel three-head Sony tape recorders, Hartmann luggage, Leica and the tiny Minox "spy" cameras, Crane notecards, and Lenox china and crystal, I read many books while standing around the regional department story where my parents worked (for a combined total of about 55 years). Whether I was standing and reading at The Popular’s Bassett book department, or sitting on the cool lino at its downtown store's small stacks on the mezzanine floor, I was free.

To me, the book department was a secret club hideout for one, with the bonus that its stacks overlooked the accessories and greeting card departments. I was a spy. While reading, I was comforted by the elevators softly dinging bell when it stopped on the floor nearest to my dad's departments and the book, camera and sporting good, luggage, stationary, and fine china departments. Sitting amid the paperbacks I read, listened, and absorbed it all. The book department was my hide. It was time away from school bullies, homework, and helicopter parents even though they were nearby. The store had no literary gatekeepers, unlike the librarian I  encountered at the downtown public library. (How could the life of some random nun become saint be off limits for someone under 12? And, I know it wasn't the life of St. Augustine.) At the store, I could read Shirer's tome, which I carried around for weeks, but a random saint? Guess not. 

Beginning with a paperback by another Frances (Hodgson Burnett) and her YA fairy tale A Little Princess, a book about a "stoic" young girl named Sara Crewe, I surreptitiously read books by Heinlein, HesseMaughamTolkien, and William L. Shirer. The reading list was of my devising and what drew me to them most likely were their fascinating covers. There were no guides or adults interfering with what I chose to read or buy. And, all this reading later lead to my attraction to Francis Farmer and her startling autobiography. Farmer’s memoir made a deep impression when I first read the book, much like Norman Maclean’s, “A Run Runs Through It,” Toffler’s “Future Shock”, the Ballantine editions of The Hobbit and LOTR, and my precious, “Native Funk and Flash” with its $1 remaindered sticker and winsome looks by another "bad girl," the late Laurel Burch

Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien, cover illustrations by [Barbara Remington]
( Ballantine (1965).

Native Funk & Flash: An Emerging Folk Art
By Alexandra Jacopetti, Jerry Wainwright · (1974).

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Note: If you can get your hands on St. Clair's book, "The Secret Lives of Color," go for it! It's absolutely beautiful and wonderfully written and organized. It's up there with Victoria Findley's "Color: A Natural History of the Palette" and Alexander Theroux' "The Primary Colors" and "The Secondary Colors."

These are great sidelong glance readings in the time of Corona. In addition, check out this 1995 New York Times article about Theroux' second color book and how easy one can be found to have not sourced their quotes correctly.
Snail of a different color from today's Quartz Obsession
Rulers of the ancient Mediterranean loved Tyrian purple. Roman magistrates wore white togas with a purple stripe. Emperors wore solid purple with a gold stripe as a sign of victory. But the colorful dye was exceedingly hard to get, as it was derived from Murex sea snails, which excrete the bromine compound to protect their eggs and ward off an attack. 
For a single ounce of color, manufacturers had to milk or crush 250,000 gastropods. Once they’d collected the snail’s secretions, they placed the dye in a vat of urine and fermented it for 10 days, according to Kassia St. Clair’s book The Secret Lives of Color. Once they applied it to fabric, its brilliance reportedly never faded. 
But the elaborate process was eventually Tyrian purple’s downfall. By the time Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, the Byzantine emperors could no longer afford to source the dye, according to St. Clair. The recipe was lost until 1856, when a French marine biologist rediscovered the snail species and their signature hue.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Bus rides 🚌 to Pershing Drive, shots πŸ’‰, and arroz con frijoles 🌯, with a bowl of hot, red Jello water πŸ₯£

Note: A member of the Facebook El Paso Memories group posted a picture of the now privately-held Pershing Theatre, and that opened a time and space portal for me.

All first run Disney movies were shown at the Pershing Theatre, and for the most part, “family-friendly.” My mother never learned to drive even though abuelo told her to get dad to teach her before they wed. “You won’t learn after the wedding,” he warned. She never did, so she and I took the bus. 

Before the various El Paso bus companies consolidated, my mom and I traveled El Paso on several bus lines. We took the blue Lower Valley bus from our house on Taxco in Ranchland Village. Next, we’d  transfer to the Government Hill green city line, and then walk to the one-screen Pershing after disembarking at what is now the El Paso Police Department headquarters (was Sears). Between Sears and EPPD the building was purchased by the Diocese of El Paso with the intention of moving Christian Brothers’ Cathedral High School into it after being retrofitted for educational and PE purposes. That would have been a neat trick as its current location sports a swimming pool. But the dream never materialized. 

Chisme sidebar: It was said the Vatican approved the loan for the building, and immediately the paper was stowed in the “never to be repaid file drawer” by the lending bank. 

But back to when it was Sears at Five Points.

Before we moved to Santa Fe, my first experience with and for a great team, supervisor, and comptroller was working the sales audit control desk. It was a routine if fast-paced situation within the accounting department. We were squirreled away in office space on the second floor. Happily, the  job opened many doors for me insofar as work experiences and future expectations went. 

The Montana Street at Piedras site is an unusual one in that, the Ralston Masonic Hospital (Lodge #130) also stood there from 1910 through WWII. From healthcare, to retail commerce, to pipedream of an reinvisioned educational facility, and now housing a local law enforcement agency — much has occurred over time on one single trapezoidal spit of land. Whatever came before Ralston Masonic Hospital?

The Ralston had a children’s ward that treated those with juvenile arthritis, polio, and Legg-Calve-Perthes, a disease that hobbled my dad at 14, and causing him to limp for the remainder of his life; sadly dad died in 2015, aged 89. Dad spent most of a year in the Ralston, learning to walk again after surgeons at Southwestern General operated on his hip to remove the diseased tissue. Over time, his hip joint fused because of the initial surgery and post-op care. According to the daughter-in-law of one of the orthopedic doctors who treated my dad, the Ralston Masonic Hospital brought El Paso its first orthopedic specialists, specifically for pediatric care.

Masonic Hospital, Five Points, El Paso

A block away on Pershing Drive and many years from his experience, I walked out of the theater with my mother after seeing “101 Dalmations” (1961) or maybe it was a holiday rerelease of “Lady and the Tramp” (1955). 

Clearing after an intense thunderstorm, dusk was turning to twilight and would soon be nightfall as clouds broke, revealing the sky’s first stars. We waited under the marquee for my father to pick us up in his 1956 Olsmobile Delta 88. It was turquoise and white. 

Sidebar parental advice gone unheeded: Though she tried after she turned 55 to get her license and then drive alone, mom never got past earning her learner’s permit. Dad had no hand in that accomplishment as she paid for the driving lessons herself. I return you now to the next part of the story.

Next to the theatre is the Pershing Inn, and next door to that was the office of our family doctor, Dr. Joseph S. Galatzan, brother to Judge Morris A. Galatzan  It was within that small rectangle of central El Paso real estate that my mother and I traveled the bus system so often. Far too often, it seemed. Especially regarding my allergies.

My dad’s family had met the Galatzans because they lived in the same neighborhood near El Paso High School (EPHS) πŸ…. My grandmother Ruby and the brothers’ mother were best of friends. Their backyards were adjacent to the duplex, my grandparents first home on Virginia Street, just below Schuster Drive, after they moved from Oklahoma. They originally came from Little Rock, Arkansas. It was their good fortune to get to El Paso right before October 31, 1929. During his medical career, Dr. Joe Galatzan was team doctor for the 1966 TWC Miner basketball team and instrumental in establishing Sun Towers Hospital (now Las Palmas). 

The quintessential family doctor, he delivered my older sister who but lived one day, and me, born two years later; he removed my tonsils at Southwestern General Hospital; and later, confirmed my first pregnancy. Overall, I spent much time in his office as I had a running sore throat accompanied by horrible earaches due to airborne allergies. It was never strep, though I still can recall the pain in my ears and my mother needing to warm up drops she applied nightly. Bermuda grass and non-bearing mulberry trees — hybridized and frustrated fauna — they cost many school-aged kids  to lose classeoom time, and have goopy morning eyelids, receive painful innoculations, and experience popping eardrums.

Dr. Joe had Highlights for Children in his office and I would read them always from cover-to-cover as I waited for the inevitable SHOT. I camped out in that office so often because I needed what seemed like monthly antibiotic shots in my butt to combat those chronic allergy-related infections I got ad nauseam. Not only shots, I constantly was instructed to gargle with warm water and salt, as directed by my mom. I must admit it did help, though she made me hot Jello water to sooth my throat, too. Red please. 

2911 Pershing Drive today.  Previously the office of Dr. Joe Galatzan. (Source: Google maps)

The doctor officed in what had been a traditional Austin Terrace/Five Points bungalow. The telephone system had a peculiar ring to it, something completely different from the usual house trill. The sound of the office phone added to the  atmosphere of dread — from the Hightlights Timbertoes family, their black and white line drawings having way too much fun, to the dim filtered light made by wide venetian blinds, and dark bricked fireplace — it was quite a dreary vignette. Once inside and through to the exam rooms, however, the light shifted immediately to bright white lights, white enameled cabinets, and the efficient- and sanitary-looking healthcare whites worn by nurse Blackie and Dr. Joe. 

Blackie was a formidable woman. She took no shit from anyone, even whiny me. She wore the quintessential stiff white uniform with cap, and thick rubber soled white nurse shoes that squeaked when she walked on the green speckled lino flooring.

After she would call me back, I was examined, and Dr. Joe would then pronounce his diagnosis. It never varied: a shot and pills in my butt and down my throat, salt and water gargle for my swollen tonsils, and ear drops and cotton balls for my popping ears. Sometimes an eyewash for summer mornings when my eyes were glued shut overnight by an obnoxious green discharge. The shot. Another shot. Always a shot. Terrified of the things, I once clenched my butt so tight I literally shot the innoculation back at Blackie. Man, she was angry. Maybe that’s when they decided I should have my tonsils removed. Nurses at Providence later told me that Blackie ended her days there, and to her dying day gave them all bloody hell. 

Sidebar childrearing: Swats on the butt after a shot hurt more than regular ones. 

After the ordeal, my mom and I would then get back on the bus and travel to either downtown to visit my dad at work, or we would get off at San Jaconto Plaza (terminal point for the green city bus line). Next, we’d walk to near the main library and catch the sky blue Country Club bus and travel on to Smeltertown where my abuelos and cousins lived. Finally, a glass of iced Kool-aid or tea, and a quick lunch of frijoles, warm tortillas made by my abula and tia that morning with Mexican rice. Then a nap. Afterwards I’d have time outside with my cousins after they came home from Jones school. It happened all beneath and across the road from the ASARCO plant. Land of hot sand and sulphured skies, the Rio Grande was about 100 yards or so from La Esmelda backyards.  La Esmelda, with her hand-built adobe and cinderblock homes, chicken coops, and caged yellow canaries, hanging from my abuela’s cottonwood tree..

Good times.

Here’s a good blog post about the theatre and its owners:

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Too many bees! 🐝 🐝 🐝 Or adventures in feral bee removal

Most likely this little bee is a Buckfast, referred to
as “the mutt of the beekeeping world,” 

Beepods explains that, “Buckfast Bee stock is named for the location of its hybridization and origin, Buckfast Abbey, in Devon in the United Kingdom.” It is a gentle bee that has been warmly welcomed into the United States for domestic beekeeping, Buckfast bees are a good bee species for “newbee” beekeepers.

Domesticated bees are social creatures. They gather pollen to make their home, honeycombs, and honey to house, feed, and care for their queen, her worker bees, the her one-act male drones. All the while, they prepare for their new queen. As a colony, they appreciate a calm quiet place near moving water.

A drowsy remaindered bee. The next morning, she was 

gone. She must have recovered, washed herself up, 

and flew off to find a new hive.
I’ll be the first to say our yard needs work. And while the control box for the sprinkler system functions, it ended up attracting a colony of sweet tempered feral honey bees. We were unaware we had bees due to where the box is located in the yard. I think they picked our yard because it’s relatively quiet, next to the arroyo, and near what they need and like: fresh water.

Over the course of several years (I don’t think before October 2016 as that’s when the injured owl stood on the green box trying to be invisible) I believe the bees did their bee thing inside the green rectangular box that sits beneath a pine tree that needs trimming.

With the help of friends, I hunted for someone who could use a few new bees. That’s when I discovered the Paso del Norte Beekeepers Association

By submitting a form on their website, I was contacted a few hours later by a beekeeper named Josh Meier. He meet up at the house, and successfully relocated the queen and her colony. It took a while because that box was packed with combs, bees, and honey.

Generally, bees have a range of between three to five miles. So from our backyard they roamed. They could get as far as the greens of the Coronado Country Club, all the fountains and swimming pools in between, to vegetation, whether native or planted flowering trees and plants. They could roam a bit up the mountainside and gather pollen from the wildflowers blooming since March, and bring back bags of pollen on their legs. Back they'd fly to their green sprinkler control box hive.
Possible range of our backyard bees.
Map courtesy, Beepod, Honey Bee Forage Map

In time, the colony grew until our neighbor noticed the bees and how much they appreciated his new fountain. This being after the house stood empty for at least five years. Before then, the pool the new owner replaced with his fountain was covered with a slipshod and highly problematic cover. There was no pool water there or routine sprinklers running.

Male Great Horned Owl, El Paso Texas Timestamp sidebar: In October 2016, a male great horned owl (one of a mated pair) suffered a broken wing and stood on the sprinkler control box trying to be invisible. Didn’t work. Caught beneath a sheet and stowed in a large box for transport, he was relocated to Stick House Sanctuary for rehab and was later released

smoking the bees

Josh Meier moves bees for you.

Up above us on La Posta, someone lounged by a pool and played random pop songs on their tinny iPod speakers (millennial boombox.) Two doors down, a neighbor’s dog barked continuously. The late afternoon light filtered by the smoke of pine needles render the bees drunk and drowsy.

Josh cleaned out the sprinkler control box and collected about five frames worth of combs. In the end he had to vacuum the remaining stray bees who stumbled upon the bee relocation program as they were returning home from a long day gathering pollen in the neighborhood and mountainside flora. He noted any remaining bees will either move on to find another hive, or wait for the queen to return. Sadly, they will live for but a month in all, and may not have long to wait to meet the many earlier queens and other bees who went before them.

As he worked, I asked how he knew he had captured the queen. Josh said he knew so because how quickly the worker bees began clinging to the sides of a box where she now was being held. About the size of a hard-sided carryon bag or big typewriter case (O, alright, like a portable Compaq luggable, circa 1983 ) the box contained the combs that held their queen.

He used pine needles to create smoke that make bees drowsy (drunk). Immediately, the backyard smelled like we were smoking a brisket.
Raw combs straight from the hive.

Bees are clever and prolific. Josh said this bee season (spring into summer) he’s had to relocate 40 hives.

Tomorrow, he will cut into a wall to remove another feral hive somewhere else in this county. In addition, he noted our hive was about three weeks away from swarming.

Swarms occur when bees can no longer sustain itself due to its population and must therefore divide in two. One group heads out with the reigning queen, and the remainder stays in place with a new queen in waiting. Chances are they wouldn’t have re-established themselves very far away. Perhaps, just over the fence inside the next green sprinkler control box they found. Good luck bees. May you multiply and divide and make as good of honey as you left here today.

Thanks to Josh for his quick, careful work. And thanks to Ray for alerting us to their existence. And most of all, thanks to the rehomed bees for not colonizing in my courtyard wall, and behaving as sweet as their honey tastes.

For help relocating and not killing bees, contact the Paso del Norte Beekeepers Association.

Two jars of Backyard Honey™️ 🍯 as @prepgirl77 calls it. In all, we collected about one pint from the combs Josh gave us! 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Take your child to work day, was Take your daughter to work day

Twitterscope: You may begin a project with an assertive surge, but conditions are quick to temper your approach...Work with the cosmic momentum, not against it. You can reach your destination if you’re willing to take the scenic route. 

More for Capricorn

#ADHD that’s been happening my whole life... #cosmicmomentum (wtf?) #ego most assuredly that... #caution? Never. #ScenicRoute? Forever and a day. 

BTW, everyday when i went by #scat (sun city area transit aka shuffling chicanos around town) aka the bus, to go to downtown El Chuco, to the old school retail department store where both my parents worked, was #bringyourchildtoworkday. That actually was the cheapest form of after school childcare ever. 

Either Bassett Center or to downtown #ElPaso, and itoccurred  at least 3–4 times a week. If i went to town by myself, I didn’t have to make supper for us.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Lost Guitars: Google book searches, Twitter, and Milagros

On Tuesday, Corgan’s fortunes changed. A friend of his contacted him with a picture of a guitar that looked like the stolen instrument. But he was still incredulous because he’d been tricked before. “Somebody sent me a picture a couple of weeks ago of another one of my guitars, and I wrote the guy back and said, ‘How did you get my guitar?'” he says. “And he wrote back,
‘Oh, it’s a recreation.’ He’d literally gotten the same stickers, worn them down in the same way and scraped the paint so it looked worn. You could have fooled me.” So he decided to check it out in person. Sure enough, it was the early Seventies Fender Stratocaster that he had been looking for for more than 25 years.
Corgan knows it’s his guitar because it had certain distinguishing marks beyond the psychedelic paint job he’d given it. He recognized the place where a previous owner had carved the initials “KM” into it, and he remembered the placement of certain cigarette burns on the headstock “that I always thought were unsightly.” These were things he’d never talked about in the press, so it would have been impossible for someone to copy them.  
Perhaps the most incredible part of it all is that the guitar was ostensibly stolen in the first place; it’s an instrument worthy of a story by Homer. Corgan recalls that about 10 years after Chamberlain sold him the instrument a person he didn’t know asked him if he still owned his guitar. He then described the one that Corgan just got back. “He said, ‘I lent it to Jimmy, it was actually my guitar,'” the singer says. “And I said, ‘Oh, I feel so bad.’ And he wasn’t mad. He was like, ‘Oh, that’s OK. Jimmy’s my friend. If Jimmy sold it to you and you used it, that makes me happy.’ 
“But that’s the guitar’s circuitous history,” he continues. “Jimmy procured it and somebody procured it from me, and now it’s back. This guitar has a certain magical mystery to it. It changed the fortune of my life. So that’s why I felt it would come back to me. It was like the talisman or something, like in Lord of the Rings. It was meant to come back to me.”   

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

To the Students: What Is and Why the Need for Superb Owl Sunday?

A snowy owl rests on Jones Beach on Long Island in New York. #  Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography / Getty

What Is and Why the Need for Superb Owl Sunday?

Hearkening to information that covers copyright infringement and fair use in general and specifically for commercial use, many announcers for companies not sponsoring the "big" event went out of their way not to refer to Sunday's championship game by its official name directly. As a result, they carefully removed the words "Super Bowl" or "Super Bowl Sunday" from their scripts due to the exorbitant amounts "official" sponsorship companies pay for advertising during the game and pregame shows. Read the word official as costing millions of dollars per minute during the game to run a single commercial. According to the CBC:
That's roughly $175,000 per second.
This year's host network, CBS, is charging a record $5.25 million for just a 30-second spot during the championship match-up between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots, reports CNBC's Julia Boorstin. 
(Huddleston, 2019)
But things being ironic and fun, suddenly, misreading or re-emphasizing an alternative spacing of letters produced Suberb Owl instead of the other two words. Of course, this let loose with all sorts of Hedwig cousins flying around the internet as so many puppy bowl howlers.
Owl with large orange eyes looks directly at audience.

Here is a collection of backgrounder articles and cautions at the CommLawBlog:

No. 9: A barn owl in Galyat, Pakistan #  Zahoor Salmi / Getty
Not to be outdone by all the owl related memes, The Atlantic promoted their gallery of Superb Owl images:

Superb Owl Sunday III - 28 photos of these magnificent nocturnal hunters. If you have some time today before the big game (or are skipping the event entirely) I invite you to have a look, it was a real hoot putting this together.
The Atlantic Photo (@TheAtlPhoto) February 3, 2019

Check them out!


Huddleston, T., Jr. (2019, January 30). This is how much it costs to air a commercial during the 2019 Super Bowl.
      Retrieved February 5, 2019, from CNBC Make It website: how-much-it-costs-to-air-a-commercial-during-super-bowl-liii.html 

Jauron, V. (2019, February 3). A snowy owl rests on Jones Beach on Long Island in New York [Photograph].
      Retrieved from

Salmi, Z. (2019, February 3). A barn owl in Galyat, Pakistan [Photograph]. Retrieved from

Tag archives: Super Bowl trademark [Blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from CommLawBlog website: 

Taylor, A. (2019, February 3). Superb Owl Sunday III. The Atantic. Retrieved from 

TheAtlPhoto. (2019, February 3). Superb Owl Sunday III - 28 photos of these magnificent nocturnal hunters.
     If you have some time today before the big game (or are skipping the event entirely)...  [Tweet]. Retrieved from 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Turkey by Taxi

In many families, conversations revolve around lore and tradition origins during the holidays. A couple of years ago at a family reunion meeting, I learned the whole, or at least more of the a story about a Thanksgiving turkey first told to me by my mother. When she told me the story early on, she just said a headless fowl chased her around the yard in Smeltertown.
For years, I only knew that some headless fowl had chased my mom around the yard after being beheaded. All these years later, and I still didn't know if it was a turkey or chicken, or for what event it had been slaughtered. Now she and my father were dead, and the story remained incomplete until one Sunday when I met with my two remaining uncles and many cousins at my cousin Gloria's house near El Paso High School. Towards the end of our meeting for our first ever Gonzalez family reunion, tio Roberto started explaining that one year there was a major labor strike against The American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). Supposedly, it would last well into or even past November.
His brother Ricardo next explained that whenever abuelo came home with 50 pound bags each of beans and rice, there was sure to be a strike, a long one. During those times, they had meat only once a week. 
At end of summer, the strike began. As it continued past Halloween, everyone feared there would be no Thanksgiving dinner that year. No guajolote, no mole de guajolote, no big turkey drumsticks. Solomente frijoles y arroz y Kool-aid.
But just before the holiday, abuela took the bus and went "to town," by herself. She was emboldened to solve the problem of the Thanksgiving dinner for her 12 children. Usually, she never left Esmelda. Instead, everyone came to Esmelda to see her. This left my mother the eldest, and her siblings wondering what the woman was doing. 

Later that afternoon, abuela pulled up in a taxi with ...a live turkey! Apparently, she crossed the bridge into Cd. JuΓ‘rez for the fowl and rode back across the bridge to El Paso, and then La Esmelda in the taxi. We don’t know how she did it, but she came back home with the a taxi.
All that remained was to do the deed — chop the head off the fowl, which abuelo did. But, my mom had to hold the large bird down as abuelo swung the axe. His aim was true, but the turkey was not yet willing to call it a day. He ran around the yard chasing my screaming mother. There began the germ of her story to me — that some headless bird had chased my mother around their dusty yard.
In the end, abuela and her three daughters made tortillas, frijoles, and rice, stuffing, mole, ice tea with limes. Everyone enjoyed el cocono (guajolote) that year. Soon afterwards and before Christmas, the strike ended.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Lucille and the Royal

Royal manual typewriter
Sunday, November 4, was my mother-in-law Lucille’s birthday. She would have been 101. I say this because one of her proudest moments was how she lent a Royal like this to her neighbor. 

Mrs. V was in a bad marriage. Her husband ran around with other women and drank. Once, I was told, one of the women showed up in the middle of the night and threw rocks through all the windows in Mrs. V's house--evidently, her husband had called it off with the rock thrower. Fortunately, his abuse was never physical to her or her sons, and he held a job. Mrs. V felt she couldn’t leave him because of the mores of the day, and that she would receive no support for her sons and her. In short, she needed a job, but had no skills for a decent paying position. 

Having hauled the big black Royal typewriter halfway around the world and back, Lucille lent her friend the machine so that she could practice and get her typing speed up for a civil service position at Fort Bliss. I still hear Lucille telling us that there was some reason she held onto her father's typewriter. She concluded that this must have been the reason why.

So Lucille and Mrs. V worked together while the kids were in school. She taught her friend to know the ins and outs of typewritten communication. How to insert the paper, use carbon sheets, change ribbons, correct errors, and the like. She practiced, got her speed up, and took the civil service exam. She was hired. In fact, Mrs. V went on to have a great career, eventually becoming an administrator on post. And Lucille was left with knowing she helped a woman make a positive change for her and her family. To her dying day Mrs. V praised Lucille for the help and encouragement she gave.

Non nobis solum nati sumus.
   Not for ourselves alone are we born.
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Image sources: 

Sometimes you need to get away from it all.

And sometimes, it's time to return and be part of the larger world.  Between the first of 2023 and February 14, I painted many watercolo...