Misty Soot and Cinder Colored Memories

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Yesterday I talked a bit about sort of growing up in “rough” circumstances. Today, over this memorial weekend, I find myself lost in a few memories.

Perusing the ABQjournal today, I came across an article titled “Cumbres & Toltec Railroad Ready to Roll This Weekend”.

And it brought a smile of memory to my face.

This is one of those “good” times from childhood, one of those places I can go and touch in my mind when things get tough. When I need a place to escape.

My dad, type A until his body couldn’t support it anymore, did love to take his family out on trips. He loved to go camping, road trips, up in the mountains, and to go see cool things that appealed to his engineering sensibilities.

One of the many trips we went on was to ride the Cumbres &Toltec Railroad. I don’t have a lot of memories from childhood, but tatters show up here and there.

One clear memory I have is being in Chama. We’d driven up there the day before, found some campground somewhere (this part is fuzzy). Dad set up our Apache Pop Up Trailer (that link shows a photo of one *exactly* like the one we had, tho ours was in better condition), the kind with the hand crank, and we spent the night. (I always had to sleep with my sister (bah!) on one end, my folks on the other, my brother in the table-converts-to-a-bed in the middle)

Then of course, we had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to go catch the train. Dad would roust us out with his old fashioned values which included that sleeping in was a sin.

I recall drinking warm Carnation Instant Breakfast from a Styrofoam cup while we stood around in the freezing cold outside the ticket office in Chama, tickets in hand ready to take the ride.

I checked the schedule page and the earliest train now leaves at 10:00am, but I’m pretty sure we took off way earlier than that. We did the Chama to Antonito and back route.

It was one of those grumblies in the morning, but once we got going on the narrow gauge rail, I was INTO it. Great quote from a Jetsetters Magazine article “Aspen leaves dance in the glittering afternoon sunlight and the train makes a rhythmic, confident, ca-chunk, ca-chunk, ca-chunk sound, as if to say, I’m a train that knows what I’m doing.” Perfect description.

This ancient train chugging up a hill. Beautiful scenery all around, mountains, trees, green. I’d lean my head out the glassless window to take it all in and get a face full of soot for my trouble.

As the rails curve and turn up the climb, you can look back at the caboose or forward and see the engine chugging along.

About halfway through, I begged my mom for money for snacks and purchased some awful junk foodie treat. Beef jerky and Funyuns I believe.

We arrived in Antonito, Colorado grimy but happy. Antonito itself is little more than a touristy place high in the mountains. We shopped while my dad and brother explored. I’m sure my lifelong love of tchochkies overtook me and I spent hard earned allowance on items imprinted with names and places. I know that I did but couldn’t tell you what. The clearest memories are the morning, the cold, and being on the train. All the rest is a haze.

But I do remember it was one of those trips where my family acted like a family. We all enjoyed each other’s company. My parents aired out their three children, exposed them to the outdoors and gave them something to learn about.

And a happy memory, one that makes me smile. It’s what I’ll choose to hold onto this Memorial Day weekend.

***Many thanks to Jetsetters Magazine for providing me photos and memories. Many of the shots linked on this page look pretty much like the ones still stuck in a photo album that I took with my Kodak Flip Flash Camera.

Update: I pulled out the old photo album with the FlipFlash photos….August 1978 *coff*. That’s when this went down…nearly twenty *coff* years ago…..*coff*

Fascinating stuff

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Reported today in the ABQjournal, article entitled “Lean to the Left? It May Be Mommy’s Fault”. From the text of the article, it’s not just mommy but mommy AND daddy who are to blame for baby’s voting behavior.

This is one of those articles I’d love to clip and send to my dear, sadly deceased, incredibly conservative dad who was often baffled by his left leaning youngest. I guess I’m not entirely liberal. There are some issues about which I’m incredibly conservative, others I’m about as far to the left as you can get. All told, if I had to take a stab at putting my political leanings neatly into a box, I’d self-report I was “liberal”.

And I certainly fit the bounds of the study detailed in the article. I had sort of a rough upbringing. Nothing more crazy than a lot of folks dealt with. My parents were still married, so I didn’t have divorce in the background, but things were tough and true to the study, I came out of the thing fairly liberal.

I think the study is interesting if a little shortsighted. I’m sure that the issue of conservative vs liberal is a lot more complex than just one contributing factor.

It doesn’t take into account things like….up to about my mid 20’s, I was quite conservative. Hell, I even voted for Bush Sr. Twice.

In my late 20’s a lot changed. The first time I voted anything other than Republican I felt….naughty. Like I was a bad child and letting my folks down….

Now I just feel like I’ll vote for whoever in the hell from whichever the hell party seems like less of a weiner, which is getting a lot harder to tell these days…..

But the study is interesting, if entertaining.

Meanwhile, off to begin enjoying my Memorial Day weekend. Wishing all a happy, safe and fun long weekend!

Requiem for an Artist

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Funny how my heart has softened regarding the injury and subsequent death of Aaron Vigil.

When I first set out to blog about the severe electric shock he received while tagging a PNM substation, I was mad. Indignant. Felt the kid got what he deserved. Wondered how he could be so stupid.

But even as I typed, my thoughts softened. I wondered about this kid. Hoped he would recover and become something better, smarter.

Sadly that’s not to be. Young Aaron died Friday morning.

And still I’m left wondering.

Today’s ABQjournal article “Tagger Called Quiet, Artistic” tells us a bit more about this young man.

Contrary to the profile that I assumed must be the case, both mom and dad are in his life, still married, care a whole lot about their son, and are devastated at the loss.

His parents describe him as “artistic” and that artistry runs in the family. They describe him as saying “yes ma’am” and “yes sir” to hospital staff. They describe him as a wildly creative kid who would draw and paint and sketch.

By all accounts from this profile, he was a good kid.

So what leads a good kid to climb a fence to tag a power station thus ending a short life?

This story troubles me. I don’t know why, but I’ve taken it probably a little too much to heart.

I know a little about being tortured by my art. By being plagued by thoughts and ideas until I *had* to get them out on canvas, on watercolor paper, on film, or most often, in a fresh new Word document.

And I’ve done unconventional things in my art. Used unconventional media. I get that.

“Family members say they weren’t aware of Aaron’s tagging, which they prefer to call art.”

I can’t. I know that many taggers are amazing artists, but maybe it’s my too conservative upbringing. I can’t call vandalism art. Or maybe I can in some cases, but he climbed up there to write his nickname. A classic tagger gang-style thing to do. The article doesn’t mention any gang ties. Maybe he wasn’t affiliated. The article says he was with two other people who haven’t been identified and haven’t come forward. Maybe they pushed him into it?

I don’t know. I’m troubled. And saddened.

Somehow we let this kid down. I can’t chalk it up to “a dumb mistake”. I’ve made lots of dumb mistakes. There is more there, more to know.

If this kid had been given more room to channel his art, would that have changed things?

Somehow I doubt it. There is some piece of this story I’m missing. Some reason I may never know.

For now, I’m saddened for this child, saddened for the parents who lost their child, and hoping someday this makes sense.

And I need to go deep inside to better understand why this troubles me so……

In memoriam….

Are we losing them?

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Yeah, so let me be upfront. I’m not a parent. I have grand respect for those who are. It’s a major sacrifice, albeit for a fulfilling reason. My best friend is mom to my two godchildren. My sister is mom to my two nephews. I love those four children more than I ever knew I was capable of loving any thing living or otherwise. I would physically hurt anybody who ever hurt any of those kids. So maybe I’m not a parent, but I “get it”. Like what I feel, but on major steroids.

So yesterday I wrote about an 18 year old kid who did something unthinkably stupid, almost losing his life in the process.

I started out writing planning a scathing evisceration of the child and his stupidity, but as I wrote, sympathy creeped in. I started to feel sad for the kid. Wondered about his parents, where were they in his life? I’ve known folks who were great parents who still had a kid gone wrong, but that’s more of an exception. I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of parents in a kid’s life. And how hard it is to be a good parent, how even the best make mistakes.

So I became real saddened to read an article in today’s Las Cruces Sun News titled “Teen drinks herself into a coma”.

Another case of a kid doing something unthinkably stupid. This petite 5’1″ girl was found with a blood alcohol content of .50. No, not a mistype. Legal limit is .08. Hers was .50.

She’s fifteen.

She didn’t die, which is amazing, but was thrown into a coma. Unsure yet what the long term damage will be to a still developing girl. For now, thankful she’s alive.

So it gives me pause….are more kids finding trouble these days, or is the news just reporting it more? Because from where I’m sitting I think we’re losing the battle to keep our kids safe and sane. It may be media hype getting me all riled up, I don’t know.

What I do know is that I can go to school every single day with those four beautiful children I adore but I still can’t keep them safe. And maybe my goddaughter makes good choices but her friends don’t. What then?

I know these are the things that keep parents up at night. These are the things that keep Niña Karen up at night, now, too.

My thoughts to the family of that young girl in Las Cruces. Much like I said yesterday, I hope as she lays there recovering she has some deep, serious thoughts about the trajectory of her life…..

And for the second day in a row, I opine that you can learn from your unthinkably stupid mistakes, or you can be doomed to keep going down that road.

Meanwhile, I want to hug all my godkids a lot right now. You think my boss would let me out of work early for that?