Old habits die hard.

Today as I meandered my way over to the shuttle bus to take me to the train, I picked my way through the parking lot at work. “Picked my way” because there is heavy construction going on at the building next door to mine.

Sitting there, by itself, in the lot, was an empty wooden wire spool. You know the type. Found at most construction areas.

Wanna know my first thought? “Man, should I take that?”

You know, it’s been some fifteen years since I graduated college. While I personally never had a wooden spool table, many friends did. I dated a few guys who did. I think the wooden spool furniture sensation is mainly a guy thing. Along with bookshelves made of cinder blocks and plywood.

It’s the same feeling I get when I see empty milk crates. I used many a purloined milk crate in my collegiate career. Good bookshelves, storage devices, and even a bedside table.

I think I still have some of those indestructible blue plastic things in my basement (all apologies to Price’s Dairy from, you know, fifteen years ago. What is the statute of limitations on absconding with a milk crate?).

Oh, is also happens when I see wooden pallets. Back then they were made from a pretty dense wood and if, say, a friend filled up the back of his pickup with a bunch of stolen pallets, piled them up by the river, poured diesel fuel on them and lit a match, you’d not only have a nice roaring fire, you’d have a long lasting warm, bright fire by which to socialize with friends.

For some reason, this old scrounging habit dies hard. The “making it work” when you have no money, and what little you do have must be saved to buy beer phenomenon still lives deep within me on a cellular level.

Despite the fact that I have a real job now and can buy beer, you know, pretty much whenever, I still have that moment of “I could take that…” and think about how it could be made useful.

I seriously considered how to get that spool out of there.

Then remembered a) I don’t need a table. I have one. A nice one. And 2) even if I didn’t have one, I could go to Ikea and buy a nice one. I don’t have to settle for a splintery wood spool.

So I’m still a scrounger from way back. But I refuse to eat Ramen noodles anymore.

Some habits you just gotta leave behind.

Where I come from

Last night I had a chance to attend a concert at a fave local venue. The show was Kenny Chesney and he played the outdoor Shoreline Amphitheater locally.

Kenny’s appearance, being a good country boy and all, meant I pulled on my fave pair of Fat Babies and hit the show to sing along with the crowd and Mr. Chesney. (you know him, he’s the guy that married Renee Zellweger for like, a minute….)

Being a good New Mexico girl, I’m a pretty good fan of country music. I’m always utterly surprised at how many fans there are out here in the Bay Area. Now, the friend I went with bummed a cigarette off a guy who had come over from Modesto. Ah, Modesto, good farm country, that makes sense. But there are a lot of “city folk” who love them some country music as much as anyone from the outskirts. And that always makes me a little happy. (and yes, I know today’s country acts are hardly country anymore…more like rock ‘n roll in a straw hat with a Bell Ranch crease)

I saw young kids that I *know* have been raised here in the Bay Area, raised among the people and the concrete and the hustle and bustle and they were singing along word for word to “Back Where I Come From”, Chesney’s ode to small town livin’.

I smiled. Because I knew these kids, though they loved the song, and sang with gusto, in a lot of ways, couldn’t possibly understand.

And it made me thankful, again, for the multi-millionth time about where *I* come from.

Oh, the simple pleasure of knowing a place where a grain elevator and a gas station/Snappy Mart are the only the only things in town (like here or here or here. Kids are homeschooled, folks live in wide open spaces where they run cattle or horses or corn or cotton or whatever comes from the land.

Or knowing how fun it is to dance a two-step on a hardwood floor with a boy you like. Or even a boy you don’t like but is a good dancer.

Or cramming the cab of a pickup with as many friends as will fit and riding to the river to have a little fun while the swirling water rushes by.

And knowing what it means to “live simple”.

Oh Fair New Mexico, how I miss you……


Baked into my childhood is a certain deep-seated fear. It’s a fear baked into every young kid in most parts of New Mexico, parts of Texas and Arizona, and plenty of Mexico. Any kid raised in the Hispanic culture.

The deep fear was brought to me by my APS teachers, of all people. Every fall, around Halloween time, actually, they would darken the classroom, crack open a book, and regale us with the tale of….

La Llorona.


Scares the you know what out of me every time.

It seems that some folks have been trying to portray the weeping woman in a better light lately. There was that commercial seen only in California that had her weeping over an empty milk container. Every time it came on, I either turned my head away or turned the channel. : shudder :

And whatever creepy feelings I have, for some people, it’s even way worse. The mother of my ex was born and raised in Mexico. She was a traditionalist and you couldn’t say “La Llorona” around her or she would start praying and crossing herself and yelling at you for saying that out loud. She thought saying her name brought her near.

There is a restaurant in San Francisco’s East Bay that serves all manner of margaritas, one of them called, you guessed it, La Llorona. Now why would I take a nice activity like drinking a marg and use it to scare the crap out of myself? Huh? : shudder :

For a while in the early 90’s, in a bid to increase awareness about safety around arroyos, the City had a campaign featuring the “Ditch Witch”, ostensibly to scare us back.

And boy, did La Llorona scare me off of rivers and streams and such. Tho not enough that I didn’t ride my bike and skateboard through the dry concrete arroyos near my childhood home. I did always keep an eye on the sky, especially over the mountains, and if it got one bit ominous, I was OUTTA there.

By the way, in case you don’t know the legend of La Llorona, here it is, in a nutshell (or at least the way it was told to me….other versions vary widely):

“Many of the legends portray a woman who is abandoned by her husband or lover and who then drowns her young children in despair, because she cannot support them, or for revenge…she is stricken with deep remorse, doomed to eternally wander near the Rio Grande or other bodies of water, looking for her lost children.” The story I heard went further. Not only was she looking for her lost children, she would abduct and in some cases drown any OTHER little children she found wandering on the ditch banks. : shudder:

I cut and paste that story from an article in today’s Las Cruces Sun News titled La Llorona’s stories to be told at Saturday festival

In regards to attending such a festival, I just have this to say: Oh hell no.

Actually, it sounds like a fun festival and I love the folklore of passing down stories from one generation to the next. But I think the “Honk if you’ve seen La Llorona” bumper stickers are going a *bit* too far.

: shudder :

Maybe They Oughta Listen to My Mom

During the some 27 years I lived in New Mexico, I had many occasions to encounter the Rio Grande. How might I best describe my impressions? Muddy, dangerous, cold, forceful undertow. Oh yeah, and flotsam and jetsam of the highest order. Things that make you go ewww as they drift by in the swirling eddies of the mud colored water.

My mom always insisted that my siblings and I not swim in “that dirty water”. Her main worry, of course, was that in the dry seasons, trees and weeds grow in abundance in the empty riverbed. During runoff, water covers that tangled underbrush and it’s real easy to get a foot caught and that’s that in a wicked undertow. The river flows fast when it’s flowing.

I’d heard stories through the years too about if you swim don’t gulp any of the water. Hepatitis. E coli. Other exotic things with exotic names I can’t remember.

I can honestly say, I’ve never swum in the water of the Rio Grande. Now I took on the muddy waters of Ute Lake with a pink air mattress and a smile during summers in my childhood, but I never had occasion to swim in the river. Occasions presented themselves, but I never went in. I’ve sat on the muddy banks a lot, pondering life, raising hell, drinking beer. Once after losing my college love, I sat by the banks of the river in Las Cruces for days on end and raised the water level with the volume of tears I cried. But swim? No.

In each person’s life, they have a collection of images in their head that are indelible. They stick for a variety of reasons. The first time you saw the love of your life. A terrible car crash you once witnessed. What it was like to see the ocean for the first time. One of those images from the mélange in my own brain is from my college days. There were lots of spots in the greater Las Cruces area with good access to the Rio Grande. As such, we college kids made it a point to have many a celebration by the banks of the Rio Grande. Many of these “river parties” took place at night, after a dance or the bar closed. But sometimes it would start as a barbeque down by the water and last into the night.

One afternoon on a warm day, a gang of girls piled in to the car and headed to the river for a barbeque day. It was a crowded party and there were some boys swimming in the river. I always give the river a beady eye of skepticism mainly because my mom drummed it into me. So I watched these nineteen-year-old guys swimming around in that gross water with fascination. I remember one guy, I can’t honestly remember his name, but he was in the water and he was swimming with all his might against the current and he was losing ground. This was a strong guy, in good shape and a strong swimmer and he was putting everything into it, and the river was pushing him back.

Ok, I know for any “mighty” river this probably isn’t all that amazing. But to me, it crystallized everything my mom had said about the dangers of swimming in that water.

Along with the wonder of seeing him swim for all he’s worth and not get any forward progress was seeing bits of yuck floating past him in the water. Not only was I horrified at the danger he put himself in swimming into the current, but my god, what danger did all that crap pose to his health?!?!

By the time that water makes it to the southern end of the state, it’s been subjected to some pretty heinous stuff. Insecticides, manure, runoff, and the occasional dear departed dog. Yes, horrible to say but true, many a person has tossed their deceased animal into that water. Hell, a few human bodies too, but that’s almost too much to consider.

In October this year I took my partner to see the span of river near my folks place in Los Chaves on the Bosque. It’s beautiful there. As we stood on the banks I recall him saying to me, “What’s that foamy stuff floating by?” God knows. I sure didn’t.

So this is a long way of saying there is no way in hell I’d drink that water. So imagine the ewww face I made when I read the article in the Albuquerque Tribune with the story title: “Taste testers find Rio Grande water earthy, approachable”.

Say it with me now….EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!

The story says that in Albuquerque they are building a treatment plant to make the water, and I quote “drinkable and deliverable to area sinks, toilets and showers.”

They’d do best not to tell folks where the water came from. Cuz I know I’m not the only one who’d be real opposed to having that in my water glass.

I know beggars can’t be choosers when water is tight. But gad…that’s just…gross.

I do love the quote, though, from a local winemaker John Calvin. “He detected some ‘overtones of granite,’ he said, a hint of ‘Russian olive in the nose,’ and something else that might have been ‘evergreen trees after a rain.'”

Wow. Bet that’s not all he tasted……

(actual photo of the actual river in Los Chavez)

Photo by Karen Fayeth