It’s an 80’s Kind of Thing

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Last week the world witnessed what has now become something of a commonplace event, the launching of another Space Shuttle.

Despite the rather aging and ailing technology used to get the shuttle off the ground, it’s sort of amazing how well that ship has flown over the years. Yes, really well, even considering the two terrible tragedies of the Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003.

As the shuttle Atlantis lifted off on July 7, I couldn’t help but be both proud and sad. Proud that another shuttle successfully made it to orbit. Sad that it’s the last shuttle to fly.

As a kid from the 80’s, the Space Shuttle program was something of magic and dreams and technology and good ol’ American pride. I loved to watch each and every launch and applauded as that little dot disappeared into the endless blue. Then several days later it would appear again and our astronauts would come home and by god, we did it again!

Remember when the shuttle landed in New Mexico’s own White Sands in 1982? I sure do. That was a good day, seeing my home state on the big stage. We got the shuttle and got ‘er home safe too!

Sadly, over time and two tragedies and budget cuts and over-administration, the proud NASA tradition has faltered, yielding way to private space programs and astronauts hitching rides with other countries who have the time and money to keep a space program running.

It’s the end of an era which makes me more than a little wistful.

Here’s wishing the crew of the final Atlantis flight an easy, uneventful flight home.



The first shuttle launch, a ship called Columbia, in 1981.




Reuters/NASA photo from The Atlantic Monthly.


Oh…That’s Not A Good Sound

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Last evening, I sat curled up in the corner of my comfy couch, sleeping feline nearby, laptop lid up, idly surfing about, catching up on the news of the day. The Good Man did something similar in the next room. Giants baseball on the radio, the sounds of Duane Kuiper calling the game.

From out of nowhere, the lights flickered, and then went out. The instant it went dark, a loud whining sound could be heard outside. The unmistakable sound of a power transformer under extreme strain. It went on for a long time. Stopped, then started again.

And I slipped back into memory. It was the early 1990’s. My folks were living in Carlsbad and I was home for a few weeks between summer school and the start of the regular school year at NMSU.

It was a beautiful, clear summer day. I decided to take a long walk and get some exercise in before my folks came home from work. I left the house about 3:30 in the afternoon and walked down long country roads. My folks were living on the outskirts of Carlsbad at that time (if you’re from there, it was out on Cherry Lane near the CARC farm).

The first half of the walk was great. It was a gorgeous New Mexico day. On my return trip, things started to get ominous. In August in the southeastern part of the state, storms come in fast and furious. Emphasis on furious. Carlsbad is at the tail end of tornado alley, but being at the tail end doesn’t mean the tornados are any less frequent.

As I walked a little faster, the sky turned deep black, and then green. The clouds started to boil. This was bad. Very, very bad.

The rain came quickly and the temperature dropped twenty degrees. The powerful winds whipped raindrops into my bare legs and arms. Then the hail started. Small icy bits at first, then growing larger.

My whole body shuddered when I heard the sirens I’d come to both fear and hate. Tornado sirens. That meant a tornado had been spotted and all we could do was wait.

I was still about a mile from home, on foot, and in the center of the storm.

I picked up the pace a lot more. I ran off and on, but as I’m not a runner, I had to slow down so I could catch my breath.

Already drenched, I groaned when the rain picked up intensity. Thunder shook the ground, the trees, the terrified girl by the side of the road.

Lightning cracked out of the sky and hit a power pole across the street and ahead a bit.

That’s when I heard that sound. A power transformer under strain.

The power transformer exploded, sending flames and sparks into the sky.

I dove headfirst into a now very soaked alfalfa field, remembering my early training on “get low when lightning is around,” and lay as flat as possible, hugging mother earth while lightning struck all around.

Soon the heart of the storm moved on and I could hear the thunder a couple miles away, counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” between lightning strikes and thunderclaps.

When it seemed I was safe, I leapt up and ran for my folk’s home as fast as I could. I got home safely. I called my mom (a no-no in the storm, but I needed my mommy!) and since we had no tornado shelter, she recommended that I stay to the center of the house and if a tornado was coming to get into the bathtub and hunker down.

“Get ready to leave the house!” The Good Man commanded sharply, snapping me from my reverie. I was back in Northern California and that transformer sound had stopped.

I jumped to action, running to get the cat carrier out of the closet and once The Feline was secure (she loves the cat carrier and walks right in with no complaint) I ran room to room and unplugged every device that was attached to a socket. The Good Man was on the phone with PG&E advising them of the situation.

We dashed outside to see what was going on and the neighbors were all outside too, talking over what they saw and heard. Soon the sirens of a fire engine came racing toward us and the firemen let us know a powerline was down two streets over but no explanation as to why the powerline came down on a quiet evening. PG&E were on their way and we should go back inside.

We lit candles and got out flashlights and settled back into the couch. Safe. On that summer day back when in Carlsbad, I was also safe. Tornados did touch down, but several miles away.

This past April when an earthquake came along and the house and ground shook, The Good Man, a longtime veteran of the Bay Area, commanded “Get in a doorway!” and I did.

I’m grateful to have a partner who is the epitome of grace under fire, and I’m grateful for my Mom’s wise support from two decades ago, too. Mostly, I’m just grateful when there is someone strong and wise to guide me through a crisis.

That makes me feel safe.




Image from Ring Electric’s blog.


In Like a Lion, Out like A….

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Been reading via the ABQJournal that April has been a rather windy month for my Fair New Mexico.

Or as my NM friend Natalie so eloquently put it on Twitter: “Life’s glitter just fell off…it’s so damned windy, dusty, smoky here!”

Indeed. The glitter not only fell off, it was sandblasted away.

In an article today regarding education cuts in New Mexico, Leslie Linthicum says:

“I’ve been thinking about the wind lately. And by thinking about the wind, I mean hating it…”

Leslie posits that the wind makes everyone a little bit nutty:

“In addition to picking up tons of grit and garbage from the Arizona state line and moving it over to the Texas state line and then moving it all back again, the wind makes people nuts.

Yes, it will loosen your screws and knock you off your rocker. It will drive your train off the track and turn you dippy, loony and screwy.

Did I mention cuckoo? The wind will gladly make you that, too, just as soon as it finishes blowing some bats into your belfry and the cheese clear off your cracker.”

Ah, home sweet gritty home.

It’s been rather windy here in the Bay Area, too. I mean, we get a good wind up off the water and often it’s that coastal wind that drives the fog inland. But whenever I hear my fellow Bay Arean complain of the wind, I just smile.

These people don’t know from wind.

New Mexico knows.

I used to work at Sandia Labs in a building just off the Eubank entrance to Kirtland Air Force Base.

Our huge parking lot was uniquely located to catch the full blast of wind that channeled through the gap where the Sandias end and the Manzanos begin. That wind would come hurtling through the gap like a runaway freight train, picking up speed as it hit the valley floor.

Wind that brutal made walking to my car in order to drive home at the end of the day a unique and not enjoyable experience. More than once, I was physically knocked to the ground by that Spring wind. I once just simply crawled the rest of the way to my car, sand filling my teeth and eyes and ears. Oh, and my nose. Oh the nose. *honk, honk*

Freeloading on all that wind is millions upon millions of particles of pollen, all ready to provide itches, hives and sneezing so hard I’d see stars in front of my eyes.

My best friend’s dad spent some time in Amarillo where I’m convinced the wind never stops blowing. He likes to say that the best way to tell the force of the wind is to attach a logging chain to a sturdy post. If the wind blows so hard the chain is standing straight out, well, that’s pretty darn windy.

It’s when it’s gusting so hard that links are snapping off the end that you might wanna get yourself inside.

I feel for you, My Fair New Mexico, suffering through an April that came in like a lion is going out like a really, really pissed off lion.






Photo by Lize Rixt and used royalty free from stock.xchng.


Asked and Answered

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It’s a hot summer afternoon and the late day sun is baking the concrete and the asphalt and the children in the backyard.

Even the grass is hot under bare feet as the mercury climbs over one hundred degrees and the town swelters.

From somewhere over the Sandias, a mass of clouds, not there ten minutes ago, begins to move and swirl and pick up momentum.

Blackening like a fresh bruise, the clouds grow darker and more imposing right in front of your eyes.

Before moisture is wrung loose, the clouds must announce their presence with all the showmanship of a meteorological Liberace.

Gaudy lightening forks across the sky, splitting into tongues, lapping out for opposite minded currents.

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four….

An Earth shattering crack shakes the house on its frame and the thunder sounds like the hand of God is ripping the sky asunder.

The cloud’s fireworks rage on, putting on a dry show while pent up demand for the rain grows stronger.

We’re all waiting in anticipation for what Mother Nature has to offer. In the desert, her moisture offerings don’t always make it all the way to the ground before evaporating.

The maddening effect of 7% humidity.

The wailing wind rushes through the streets lifting corners of shingles and twirling tree tops like green haired Troll dolls and rattling every window.

Howling in its intensity, the wind takes patio tables and trash cans and everything not nailed down and turns it on end. Over end. Over end.

Dogs stop howling and begin whimpering, begging to come in.

Children who were brave enough to face the lightening and thunder now race inside as pea sized hailstones on the force of the wind are pile driven into sun burnt skin.

“Ow!” they shout and race for cover.

After the showy display of hard frozen pebbles, the storm is ready to give up its cargo.

Rain, big heavy drops begin falling. No, not lightly first and then harder. Nuance won’t do.

The skies open up and the angels pour buckets out of the clouds and oh holy sh*t is the rain pouring down.

For ten minutes the world is coming apart and you hope the roof holds the walls hold the windows hold and “oh please don’t let that be a tornado.”

And then as quickly as it started, it’s done. The boiling clouds move on, intent on playing out their performance in another town another state another day.

The skies turn blue and the sun picks up where it left off, blazing down on the world below. Quickly, the wet ground starts to warm up.

Ozone lingers in the air and the drying rain gives off a smell of wet, hot concrete and moist earth.

The odor is fresh, clean, pure, natural.

Once frightened children begin to creep outside to play in the last hours of the daylight savings time white hot summer sun that soon enough gives over to pinks and oranges. Stars begin to peek through the sky….

And all of this is meant to answer the one simple question:

“For me, the smell of childhood is…”





Image found over at kirstenkoza.com. Visit her site, she’s got some amazing storm photographs.


Apologies to defenders of good grammar. After spending all day writing under someone else’s rules and word count restrictions, a rule breaking stream of consciousness felt *really* good.


Unhinged

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As you read this, I am somewhere overhead winging my way to the Great State of New Mexico. This is not so much a vacation as taking care of some personal business.

It’s a bit hard to leave seventy degree California for thirty degree New Mexico, you know? That said, as the weather works in my home state, by the end of my trip, it’s expected to be almost seventy in Las Cruces.

As a kid, I always did love that phenomenon of snow today, sixty eight and sunny tomorrow.

But right now, the day before my flight, all I can think about is…what am I going to eat?

I mean seriously, the green chile level in my blood stream is so low as to be critical.

This needs fixing the second I leap off the airplane.

I keep thinking of ALL the places and ALL the menu items I want to eat all in one big Cookie Monster-esque “ahm nom nom nom.”

If only I could unhinge my jaw the way my favorite blue monster does, then sweep in all the rellenos, enchiladas, carne adovada, and tacos al carbon I can get my arms around.

That would be great.

Of course, I’d qualify for extra baggage on my flight home.

Hoping to fit in reports from the road. Stay tuned!