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. Juárez 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: 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Perfect Brandy Manhattan Recipe

Previously known only to those from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, this cocktail  was brought to El Paso, Texas in the late 1950s by the late, Stanley E. Drapes, Major Ret USA  especially for his wife Lucille (Jurgella) and her sister Isabel. The recipe is said to habe originated at either the old Sky Club or Antlers supper clubs in Stevens Point, and could have been adopted by the two Jurgella sisters.  

Happily, the tradition to serve this cocktail on festive occasions has been exported to Hawaii by Stanley and Lucille's son, Vincent, and continues to be served in El Paso by his son Michael, and in Wisconsin and Minnesota to this day. 
Na zdrowie!

For one serving:
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz brandy

For a cocktail party, consider making the liter and half recipe (1.5 L). Mix a week in advance so that the ingredients can "marry" and age together. 
Store in the refrigerator, and the mix will taste smoother when allowed to age longer.

500 milliliters of dry vermouth 
500 milliliter of sweet vermouth 
1 liter brandy 
Serve in old fashioned glasses over ice with marichino cherries on swizzlesticks. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Favorite political ads: Richard Linklater

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Snacks for a little deer 🦌

This afternoon a juvenile deer walked through our backyard from the arroyo and went next door for a snack. Usually, we have about six adults and this summer saw two babies in the arroyo with their mothers. He’s evidently been by this particular yard before as he had no trouble munching there for at least five minutes.

Thanks to MJ for alerting me to the little deer. He spied him walking theough out backyard. Then he saw him munching in the front yard.

Video shot with an #iphone8plus edited with #imovie and later squared for Instagram using #nocropapp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Threads Box WIP

#TBTuesday #bravocotton by Rainbow Gallery #wildflowers by The Caron Gallery #needleart #linencanvas #plasticcanvas #metallicthreads #needlepoint #dimentionalstitches

UTEP Student Veterans Writing Program

This program serves as a supplement for veterans returning to school after their service. It aims to assist those in First Year Composition, but may help veterans in all their writing life stages. 

Veteran students are encouraged to participate as their schedule allows.

This program seeks to reach to veterans specifically now, but hope to allow all military affiliated students in the future.

Availability limited to the first 30 students. 

Fall Semester Schedule
1:30 PM to 2:30 PM.


University Writing Center

Military Student Success Center

Friday, August 17, 2018

Foto Frontera at the La Fe Cultural and Technology Center

Exhibition Link on Wix

If you are in town from Thursday, September 6 to October 26, 2018, please stop in to see all the wonderful photographers' works which will be on display along with my dad's images.

For the event, I chose to create a new website for my dad's images using Wix. Every semester, I teach a First Year Composition course that includes an ePortfolio or Advocacy Website assignment. This allows me to remain relatively current with the various free services students can use to create their websites. Because of this practice, I decided to create a photography exhibition / portfolio for my dad's photographs that will be exhibited in September at the La Fe Cultural and Technology Center.

I like the idea of being able to connect from one service to another while adding content here, and chose Wix because it lets the designer create finely arranged pages, and provides several basic templates from which to choose. Weebly is very good too and I've created sites with it. It is very good for students that have little or no web design and authoring experience. However, Wix seems best for portfolio and gallery type sites. 

Thursday, June 07, 2018

It had to come at some point

When a relative greatly disappoints, go to Costco, gas up the vehicle. Then, go inside and buy a big box of strawberries 🍓, some shrimp 🦐 , and avocados 🥑. 

Then come home and make strawberry jam for the very first time. I did everything but buy a bottle of Taittinger 🍾

The disappointment stems from this relative (over 40 and living in another state) believing that any immigrant is a bad immigrant. I didn't go to this person’s Facebook page, but instead, the person commented on an image i posted of Jim Carrey with a quote. 

The recipe comes from a link to Ina Garten’s strawberry jam recipe. It’s really simple and has but three ingredients: fresh strawberries, lemon juice/grated lemon rind, and sugar.

Find her recipe here:

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Aluminum 35mm Film Canisters

My dad was a retail camera buyer for a local department store. Previously and immediately after high school he worked as a darkroom technician for a portrait studio and then a drug store. 

In high school, he told me that #Kodak was phasing out its metal film canisters and switching to plastic. I immediately started saving the aluminum ones, and sometimes he brought me some from work when people left their film to be developed and printed.. 

Over the years, I’ve discovered special film types had colored canisters. Shown in image 3 Is a book of little stickers printed by @moo. Good times. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The quiet ones with whom we share the land: Mule deer and skunks

Accompanying an announcement reminding students a draft was due soon, this image was included with a note about the deer that live nearby. Added here is a collage of one of several skunks who live around the arroyo, too.
mule deer

One of six mule deer that live in and around the Franklin Mountain foothills in an arroyo behind my house. This fellow and the others usually walk up and down the arroyo, munching on leaves that hang over the walls.

Deer usually travel together in groups of threes, although all six have been seen together as far as Snowheights and Westwind. Last week, I spied two females with their juvenile offspring, one each.

A couple of seasons ago, the six, seen earlier down Westwind one evening, were seen later that night walking back into our arroyo (a rain runoff collecting station for the area) behind my house.
collage of American skunk, male
Silently and slowly they walk along the backyard walls that face the arroyo below La Posta. They are nearly invisible unless you see them move. One side glance and they disappear again until you detect their movement. This place was christened Foxes Arroyo as two foxes have lived in the arroyo, too. One night I heard their growly noises at our old cat Buddy, and I saw their ears and faces peeking over the back rock wall. Another night we saw them scamper across Belvidere to get back into the arroyo. Like the deer, they forage beneath the larger house walls across and in the arroyo. Instead of greens they search for small rodents and other small mammals. 

Quietly, too are the skunks and other smaller mammals that dwell in the foothills of the Franklin Mountains. In the winter, a momma skunk and her kits will sometimes keep warm in our garage. We leave its door open about three inches so that animals can get water. If we left out dry cat food, the skunks come in for a nosh, too. But the night I captured this small skunk it was about 10:30 PM. They also make the rounds about 2:00 AM. Here, he is munching some seeds I put out for them. In the morning, all the birds will alight and finish what was there. The bird seed includes sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and nuts.

Along with the skunks, we have Steller's blue jays (migrating), two types of dove, mocking birds, juncos, tiny ladder-back woodpeckers, thrashers, minuscule field mice, ground squirrels, coyotes, owls, raptors, (red tailed hawks and the petite American kestrel) and squirrels. Years ago, a friend in Northeast El Paso said he saw a badgers in his neighborhoods near the Franklin foothills off Magnetic. Deer and skunks are also living there, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Photography and Vintage Film

In between reviewing student assignments and meeting with them, I was catching up on newsletter reading. The Twisted Sifter always provides interesting posts about visual artistry and how it intertwines with technologies, whether old and new.

Today's newsletter is no different and provides a balance between moving images of 1911 New York City, presented by videographer Guy Jones, black and white film and Christopher Burkett's Ilfachrome CIBA large format film photography.

Each video explores how either the editor of the movie or the photographer combine old school technology with new. The real magic continues in the "post production" work, whether adjusting the speed of the video and adding ambient sounds, or taking up to eight hours to expose Burkett's diminishing supply of special film to its equally dwindling inventory of paper.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sidebar: Concrete, Cotton Seeds, and Cigarettes

Recently, I've been sharing what I call Sidebars, random information about local items of interest. I send the information along when I send announcements Asarco smokestack under construction, El Paso, late students via Blackboard. This was the most recent Sidebar, but now I'm thinking I will go back and post more of those here, too.

Image above: In the mid-1960s, after my father worked for The Popular department store for many years, he left to work for a testing laboratory. There, he tested cement, and ran soil compaction tests for many large projects in town, including the now demolished Farah Manufacturing facility (now the site of the Fountains of Farah), Morehead Middle School (concrete corrugated shaped flat roof), the El Paso International airport traffic controller tower, and the tallest ASARCO smokestack, completed in the late 1960s. At ASARCO, dad photographed the construction site at ground level several times and he was even allowed to take me there, too. Between the ages of 7–12, I went to many sites and watched the concrete compaction tests at the lab and helped place cement cylinders in the damp room where they were to be cured for 21-days. The cylinders were capped at the building site with a funky yellow sulphur cap at either end. 
For its time, the ASARCO smokestack project was the largest and longest continuously poured cement project in the world. When the regionally grown cotton was ready to be processed into cotton-seed oil, dad worked at the Southwestern Irrigated Cotton Growers Association* (SWIG) processing plant. When he came home after working at SWIG all day in the fall, his short-sleeved cotton shirts were permeated with the smell of refined cotton seed oil. 
One Sunday, while visiting my grandparents at their home in Smeltertown, which stood directly across the street from the ASARCO plant, dad got a call to go to the construction site. I begged to go with him and he said yes. We toured the ASARCO site with the project manager and walked inside the tower as seen here. I remember looking up to see the blue sky while standing dead center within the hollow stack. (Shades of The Ring!) Later, when it was complete, dad rode the construction elevator to the top of the smelter tower and shot photos from its platform. Unfortunately, those photographs were given to ASARCO and I never saw them. 
By the time the tower was demolished on April 13, 2013, my mom had died in January of that year, and dad had lost most of his sight due to macular degeneration**.

**Macular degeneration is hereditary. However, those who get it in later life were usually those who smoked cigarettes. My father smoked unfiltered Chesterfields from the age of 15 to 58 or so. Not long after he quit he began losing his eyesight. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Discourse Communities essay for my current online class

Usually, activities are set up to discuss the discourse communities in which we are members. Students realize that they overlap with one another, or that they are members of similar kinds of groups. Students map these encompassing and shared communities that reside within and without our residence, and include, but not limited to:
  • families, extended or nuclear;
  • communal situations with many roommates, such as a college co-op;
  • military service members--enlisted or officers;
  • churches, temples, mosques, sitting group members;
  • gym and yoga members;
  • classmates, past and present;
  • athletic team or band members;
  • clubs; professional, Panhellenic, etc.
We converse and share information differently within and without our diverse discourse community collections. And, when communicating, we put on different attitudes or "masks," depending to whom we speak or write/text/twitter/share information with those, at any given time or place.

We laugh with our families and may hail each other by nicknames the family has bestowed on us. My González Smeltertown nickname was Carolina La Gallina (Carolina the chicken, and rightly so). My Jackson cousin and grandparents hailed me by the southern Carolyn Rhea (pronounced Ray) by running my first and middle names together. One González cousin was nicknamed Pelon (bald, ironically because he was born with a full head of hear) and other Gūero because he had green eyes in our sea of brown as boot irises. Yet, over time Pelon has come to fit his name because lost most of his hair, and Gūero still has his green eyes. 

We focus and become serious when speaking to authority figures, etc. We share stories within special groups and learn to trust or not to trust outsiders. Here, in this Daily Show with Trevor Noah segment with Roy Wood, Jr., he defines and frames what Black Twitter means as a digital discourse community. Wood, Jr. also shames and complicates the group why others cannot simply opt into self-enrolling as a member of Black Twitter and why: 

We allow membership based solely on where we are born, in which family, by the color of our skin, and by the language(s) we learn and use.
Discourse community members share, tell inside jokes, and use language and words differently. We warp language into special terms, and share lore, aka family stories. Lore includes oral histories, communal memories, practices, and special recipes for holidays. Over time, the meanings of such thinks like special foods and recipes fade as older group members die. If stories aren't shared, they disappear with the last member. But we can later recall their meanings if we discover diaries, photographs, letters, and other textual, visual, or recorded evidence. Even a person's type of handwriting can identify their education level and where and when they learned how to write, such as with the Palmer Method.

Lost Significance

Such happened on my maternal side of the family. Decades ago, my mother's family lived in Smeltertown, a now politically erased and physically destroyed Mexican American community that was once located across Paisano from the now razed ASARCO plant. At the time I was about 4-7 years old, and still can recall the special foods my abuela and tia would have prepared for next week's Good Friday. In hindsight, the sparse noonday meal (served before noon) mimicked a Passover Seder meal. This memory of such weird food combinations later prompted my older cousins and I to wonder about their significance beyond a Good Friday Catholic fast. It has enticed me to research if perhaps abuela's family (Macias, who was of Mexican and Belgian descent,) and an immigrant with abuelo from Aguascalientes, Mexico, were in fact, "hidden Jews." Several years ago, the El Paso Times interviewed and discussed families here along the border who discovered their older Jewish heritage.
The main point of all this is to explain that discourse communities share of specific information that others do not have. Members are privy to this information that others cannot know or obtain unless invited to learn. And it is by noticing these special hallmarks, subtly interviewing our families, coworkers, classmates, and friends that we can understand more about ourselves and how we communicate and share with those around us. 

Bus rides 🚌 to Pershing Drive, shots 💉, and arroz con frijoles 🌯, with a bowl of hot, red Jello water 🥣

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 an...