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Happy New Year, stereogram, by Gary Priester
Relax your eyes and look “through” the image, not focusing
on the foreground. Let your brain work to see the hidden message
re: La otro banda (the other band)
We were first introduced to this expression two summers ago during
a gathering of Placitas residents who have lived in our neighborhood
for many years. It was during this oral history lesson that I first
heard the phrase: la otro banda. During our chat, local
Placitas village residents reminisced about the hay days of Placitas
and what it was like to live in the village during the sixties and
seventies. Those were the days of the beat generation with visits
from the likes of poet Alan Ginsberg and Bob Dylan’s drummer
who reportedly did a gig at the old Thunderbird Lounge.
During the question-and-answer session, I asked the group, What
it was it like to sit in on a Ginsberg reading or listen to the
drum beats of Bob Dylan’s percussionist. As the guests shared
their personal recollections, I was asked by one of the participant’s
where I lived in Placitas. I told them that we live on a private
road off Camino de las Huertas, just a couple of miles from where
we were meeting. At that point, one of the speakers smiled, turned
to one of the other guests and said, “Oh, he is one of the
la otro banda.”
Without a comment, I waited until the story was finished. At the
end, I approached the storyteller, and asked what la otro banda
meant. “Oh, “he said”, that is simply an expression
we use to describe the rest of the Placitans.”
I am honored to be part of the la otro banda and equally
proud to be associated with the village people.
—RON SULLIVAN, Placitas
re: an “awesome” train
I am writing to say that I had a hair-raising experience while
standing at the Rail Runner platform at 550 in Bernalillo on December
The train was delayed—we later learned that the delay was
partly because of a faulty railroad crossing gate to the south—and
many children, excited to ride the special Saturday holiday train,
were playing around the fat yellow line that separates the waiting
platform from a drop down into the train tracks. Forty-five minutes
had gone by and still no Rail Runner had arrived.
With no train staff there to explain the delay, people were getting
restless, craning their necks out and over the train tracks to look
south and see if the Rail Runner was coming north. Clumsy children
ran and twirled themselves around the support poles of the station’s
shelter with limited supervision, stepping in and out of the yellow
line. All of a sudden, around the corner from the north, and with
only a second’s warning blast of a train horn, here comes
the Amtrak train, rocketing southbound through the Rail Runner station
at eighty miles per hour, not slowing a bit.
Unbelievable! There is no railing on the Rail Runner station. The
kids and everyone stood in shock as the train blasted through, within
inches (twelve, eighteen?) of our bodies. You could have reached
out and touched it. The force was ever-memorable. After it passed,
little kids, still clutched by their parents, screamed, “That
was awesome!” I can only imagine the horror if someone would
My point is: There should be a railing at the Rail Runner station
platform with gates to access the doors of the train—good
grief. My advice: Watch out!
—BARB BELKNAP, Placitas
re: roasting chestnuts,yellow snow and Thee
Dear Friends Back East:
The thought behind your Christmas gifts is exceeded only by their
terrific originality. I will always treasure the elegant and uncommon
coffee table book, Yellow Snow on Manhattan Streets—A Photographic
Essay. I especially appreciated the inclusion of a photo of the
canine responsible in each case for the urinary deposit on the lovely
snow-mantled urban landscape of your home area. It appears that
some of these wonderful animals are exuding genuine pride over their
colorful discharges, e.g., the grinning Brittany Spaniel on page
fourteen and the beaming Akita on page fifty-seven. What a charming
I also look forward to perusing the other unique photographic volume,
Skin Grafts Gone Bad. Great holiday reading—thanks so much
again. Each book fills a… needed gap… in my library.
I’ve already enjoyed the DVD you sent me. I recall each of
you encouraging me to see On Golden Pond over the years, but I had
failed to do so. The DVD you sent me was, however, entitled On Golden
Blonde and seems to vary considerably from that Henry Fonda/Jane
Fonda/Katharine Hepburn film. In fact, in repeated viewings, I’ve
failed to recognize any of the performers, although I’ll doggedly
continue my efforts.
Perhaps there was a communication error with the vendor? Don’t
feel badly in any case—this film has many high points and
undulates with a simple, but classically appealing story line.
I am interested in whether you liked the black velveteen throw
I sent you, depicting a tightly-coiled, open-mouthed, long-fanged
diamondback rattlesnake in the center. You hadn’t mentioned
it in your note. You also failed to acknowledge receiving a copy
of Firing Squad Protocols for the Twenty-first Century that I sent.
Hopefully those items arrived okay and you will enjoy them.
You’ve asked if I had any resolutions for the New Year. No,
I don’t. I just plan on starting the New Year very slowly
and then gradually easing up over time. I don’t plan to report
the wages of sin on my income tax forms again this year. I will
eliminate from any consideration those presidential candidates whose
desktop calendars and mindset fail to continue beyond September
11, 2001. (“No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched.”
—George Jean Nathan, 1882–1958.)
And I plan to play my superb old Maine coon cat’s Marty Robbins
CDs for his listening pleasure whenever he seems interested. (Patrick
can no longer manipulate the CD player, but never tires of hearing
Marty’s “Streets of Laredo.”)
And, finally, I shall pick up my hat, grab my coat, leave my worries
on the doorstep, and direct my feet to the sunny side of the street.
—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas, New Mexico
re: “the telephone booth”
Camino de las Huertas has many interesting attractions as it twists
and turns across arroyos, Huertas Creek, and Indian Mesa. Perhaps
the most frequented and interesting stop along the way is the pull-off
my wife has identified as “the telephone booth.” The
booth is located about three quarters of a mile north and a couple
of dips and turns past the Community Center. As you begin the sharp
turn and steep incline on one of the S-curves, on the right hand
side of the road is the telephone booth. As you pull into the telephone
booth, panoramic views begin to unfold like an alluvial fan. On
most days, you can see the Jemez Mountain Range, the Rio Grande
Valley, and Cabazón some fifty miles away. During tarantula
mating season, it is not uncommon to see the fuzzies traversing
along the side of the road. It is also a point from which you can
hike to the outcropping of rocks to view Native American rock art.
However, the most common reason for stopping there does not include
any of these amazing sights, and you will not find a telephone booth
at the telephone booth pull-off. What you will experience is the
ability to generate and receive cell phone calls. If you have ever
tried to use a cell phone along Camino de las Huertas, it is usually
a crap shoot. At best, “Can you hear me?” is the query.
The telephone booth is one of those special spots where you can
make contact with the outside world, call for directions when you
are lost, or simply let your family know you are almost home.
Personally, we have switched services and most of the time, the
new cell phones are okay. For special occasions, such as visiting
our well or scouting an arroyo, we have invested in two-way radios.
I have also thought about rigging up tin cans connected with twine,
but the distances are far too great. So far, nothing seems to work
as well as the pull-off at the telephone booth.
—RON SULLIVAN, Placitas
State of Bernalillo—It’s ‘the vision thing’
When September 11 arrived in the year 2006, an unusual event occurred
in the Council Chambers at Town Hall. Mayor Chávez and the
Trustees, feeling mounting pressure from developers, declared a
moratorium prohibiting development in the two Rail Runner Depot
areas. Apparently, they were unable to define what would be appropriate
and in keeping with the slowly evolving character of this small,
rural, ethnically enriched outpost of sanity that is our home.
The point was that we were blessed with two train depots in one
small town, and a plan was needed to rationalize such an extravagance.
The state built the Rail Runner, and sure they would be glad to
finance a study—using more of your tax dollars—called
Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
The Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG)—or ‘Mr.
Cog,’ as the Town Administrator calls it—is motivated
to see that the Rail Runner is a success. But, it isn’t necessary
to really listen to the inhabitancy in a small town like Bernalillo
whine about how they don’t want to lose their town to hyper-development.
It is necessary for MRCOG to create the illusion that they care
and the good people’s every desire has been addressed with
For instance, Mr. Cog himself told the eighty or so folks at the
October 18th input session that affordable housing is part of the
plan. However, not only is the term totally undefined, but there
is only token lip service to the subject.
In a town where most of us just want to be left alone, the complaint
that thousands of new people will be moving in falls on deaf ears.
Those masses—packed into two percent of Bernalillo—support
the vision of MRCOG, the Planning and Zoning Officer, and the Community
Development Director, but not the majority of citizens.
TOD Goals: “Solidify a sense of place around each station
that is suited to the history and character of the town” and
ensure that the ensuing “development supports the town vision
…through more compact environments.” One may correctly
assume this density is what our Community Development Director refers
to when advocating her vision of seventeen dwelling units an acre.
When the Mayor and Trustees are unable to create a vision for development,
they will leave it up to staff and consultants. Imagine what it
would be like to have a Council creative enough to come up with
their own vision representing the will of the people. In Bernalillo,
staff runs Town Hall and their agenda is to convince those elected
that their grand visions are truly in the best interests of all.
History is replete with authoritarian rulers who sought to build
or change communities to better serve mankind. In James C. Scott’s
book Seeing Like a State, these rulers tended to “regard themselves
as far smarter and far-seeing than they really were and, at the
same time, regarded their subjects as far more stupid and incompetent
than they really were.”
Development is inevitable in Bernalillo, but encouraging overcrowding
through TOD recommendations is not the best vision for the Town.
The Mayor and Trustees have bought into a pattern of unnecessary,
detrimental change that will determine their legacy, and our future.
The perpetrators of this plan should not be rewarded with complacency.
The mold has been set for the wrong kind of development in Bernalillo,
but there is still hope. Density and related city expenditures can
be controlled still by a motivated Council. If they are not in favor
of maintaining our small town closeness, perhaps we should express
our opposition at the polls on March 4, 2008.
Email me with thoughts and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ramblin’ raven recovered
This just in… In what is apparently the largest bird hunt
in the history of the modern day Placitas area (including but not
to be confused with the historic village of), results are hereby
reported: Poe, the rambunctious rambling raven, was found in Homesteads
on the afternoon of Friday, November 30. She was about 3.5 miles
(a twelve-minute drive) from home, but less than a mile, as the
This raven was brought to the Wildlife Rescue, Inc. (WRINM) Clinic
in June 2006, at approximately three weeks of age, by a man who
rescued her from a bull snake. The constrictor had crushed her left
wing and right leg, so she was, at that time, unable to fly. She
was sent home with Mrs. Peggy McCormick to begin socializing the
young bird in hopes that she would become an education assistant
and participate in programs for the organization. Poe was placed
on the USFWS/WRINM education permit in 2007 and since then has done
many hours of education programs. One morning in November, as she
was being transported from the McCormick house out to her flight
cage, she broke free and flew away. So, Peggy put signs up here
in Ranchos and nearby areas, and emailed everyone she knew, so folks
could keep an eye out and hopefully ease her passage home. Clearly,
the bird has regained some ability to fly.
Still feeling feisty after a taste of life on the road, Poe nevertheless
succumbed to tasty morsels from the hand of raven wrangler Peggy
McCormick. There had been many sightings of her meanderings during
her adventure… several not far from home in Ranchos, one in
Trails, and reportedly one near Kirtland AFB, although a renowned
ravenologist, who wishes to remain anonymous, doubts she would have
traveled that far and speculated the sighting may have been a test
flight of a new miniature stealth fighter. The Air Force would not
return phone calls at press time.
Mrs. McCormick wishes to express her gratitude, and that of Wildlife
Rescue of NM, at the recovery of the rambling renegade raven and
wants to thank all who helped in the round-the-clock search. New
security measures are in place to prevent a recurrence.
Heard around the West
—BESTY MARSTON, High Country News
“Lucky,” an elk that was hand-raised by residents of
Tillamook County, was by all accounts a cute calf. You could see
the little elk along Highway 101, in a pasture where bull elk like
to hang out with milk cows. He was comfortable with people and would
jump into a pickup bed as easily as a dog, reports the Statesman
Journal. But then Lucky got bigger and wasn’t so cute
anymore. He started getting pushy with the neighbors and jumping
into the wrong pickups, says Herman Biederbeck, a state wildlife
biologist. Lucky had to go. But once relocated to a remote part
of the county, the elk still “found his way to a house and
went inside.” Lucky was picked up for a second attempt at
relocation, but this time the elk who seemed to think he was a dog
was trucked much farther away, to the Cascades. Oregon biologists
say the saga of unlucky Lucky shows what can go wrong when young
animals get taken from the wild. Although they hope Lucky makes
it in the mountains, they’re not very optimistic: The elk
has no experience as a herd animal and has never had to find food
or escape from predators. Their advice to humans: Never “rescue”
a young wild animal, and always assume that its mother will return.
State health officials gave away lunchboxes festooned with healthy
slogans, hoping kids would follow their advice to “Be Active”
and “Eat fruits and vegetables.” Sadly, the attempt
backfired: The colorful containers of green and blue canvas were
made in China and possibly contaminated with lead, said the California
Department of Health. It announced a recall of 300,000 of the lunchboxes,
which had been distributed at health fairs and other venues since
2004, reports the Los Angeles Times. “It’s
unfortunate that an item we’re using hopefully to promote
healthy behavior is discovered itself to be a potential health hazard,”
said Mark Horton, director of the state’s public health department.
We can probably expect great things of six-year-old Josh Barber
of Broomfield, Colorado. Waking up early and really hungry for some
chicken nuggets, he took matters into his own hands while his dad
was at work, his grandmother was asleep, and his mother recovered
from surgery. The child found car keys, went outside, unlocked the
car door, adjusted the seat so he could see over the steering wheel,
and started on down the road toward those chicken nuggets. “I
hit the gas,” he told a Denver television station. Unfortunately,
the car was parked in reverse, reports the Associated Press. Backing
up 75 feet, Josh hit a pole and knocked out phone service and electricity
to dozens of houses. “I crashed into these things, and then
what happened is, I didn’t know what to do,” Josh explained.
The boy promised that he wouldn’t take the wheel again. Not
for a few years, anyway.
Three cheers for ninety-year-old Harold Burgess, volunteer extraordinaire
and particular advocate of trumpeter swans and black-bellied whistling
ducks. After putting in 33 years as a national wildlife refuge manager
and biologist, Burgess volunteered for the next 27 years at various
refuges. Last July, when he turned 90, he “quit” his
second career as a volunteer, reports Refuge Update, published
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Asked which work he enjoyed
more—paid or volunteer—Burgess said the latter. “I
don’t have any boss. I just go ahead and do it.”
Trust the Arizona Republic to get readers’ blood
boiling. All it took was a little story headlined “Way too
hot, way too late in the year.” For the fifteenth straight
day, temperatures were far above normal, and on the day of the paper’s
story, November 6, the temperature hit a steamy 91 degrees. What
was worse, “the Valley’s hot fall is merely a continuation
of what has been a fairly miserable year.” One unsurprised
reader reacted with mockery: “We’ve got trouble …
right here in Desert City! We’re oblivious to the need for
shade or water conservation. We’re in denial about the heat
island effect.” Another agreed, saying that moving out of
Phoenix was only a question of when. Still, the nation’s fifth-largest
city had its avid supporters. More than one said the heat was just
fine and that people fleeing would mainly mean “a few less
people on the freeways.”
Bears burgling houses around Lake Tahoe are a familiar story. But
the number of bears killed by cars—75—set a record this
year, reports the Reno-Gazette Journal. Also new are efforts
by some people to feed the animals in the forests, a move condemned
by most wildlife specialists. One woman spent $10,000 on nuts and
fruits, dropping off the goodies as she walked through the trees,
and “pilots have also dropped food from their planes.”
Ann Bryant, leader of a local group, the Bear League, defends the
practice: “It’s a whole lot more natural if bears are
foraging in backwoods and finding food than picking through someone’s
Given the number of accidents and attacks against bicyclists in
Seattle, riders may want to don flak jackets. In September, a cyclist
was hit by a truck and killed, and in October, a rider accused the
driver of a sport utility vehicle of trying to intimidate or even
hit him, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But it’s
only recently that the shooting started: Peter McKay was pedaling
home in early November when he heard bangs, then suddenly felt pain
in his chest. “I didn’t think of calling the police
or dialing 911,” he said. “I just kept riding.”
Once home, however, he discovered he’d been hit by BB pellets;
an X-ray the next day showed one had entered his left lung, releasing
air into his chest cavity, while another just missed his aorta and
spinal cord. McKay, who plans to continue commuting to work, jokes
that he shouldn’t have been wearing a yellow bicycling jersey
because it made him an easy target. Some help is on the way for
Seattle’s 6,000 bicycle commuters: The city council just approved
a master plan that will put millions into improvements, “including
19 miles of cycling trails and a 230-mile system of marked routes
As joggers passed by and tourists looked on, a group of 700 “guerrilla
volunteers” pitched in to clean oil from San Francisco’s
beaches, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. What made
the cleanup unorthodox was the ingredients used: human hair and
mushrooms. Hair “acts as a perfect sponge,” according
to Lisa Gautier of San Francisco. The hair was collected from Bay
Area salons, and woven into pads the size of doormats. Gautier donated
1,000 hair-mats collected by her nonprofit, Matter of Trust, to
help clean the oil spilled by a cargo ship that crashed into a base
of the Bay Bridge. Gautier pioneered the technique, first persuading
the city’s environment department to use hair-mats to absorb
used motor oil. Where do the mushrooms come in? Once the mats become
saturated with “black gunk,” she says, they’re
a perfect bed for oyster mushrooms to grow and make nontoxic compost.
“You make it like a lasagna,” Gautier says. “You
layer the oily hair mats with mushrooms and straw, turn it in six
weeks, and by 12 weeks you have good soil.”
Mushrooms are so ingenious: One species apparently lives and thrives
underwater in Oregon’s Rogue River, reports the Mail Tribune.
Hydrologist Robert Coffan couldn’t believe what he was seeing
at first—“gilled mushrooms do not live and grow underwater,”
he said—but there they were, “swaying in the main current
of the clear, cold river in early July through late September.”
Coffan consulted biologists at Oregon State University and elsewhere,
and they believe he’s found a new species, one that apparently
grows not only on submerged wood but also on gravel. How are the
mushroom’s spores dispersed? Nobody knows. “We have
a whole new area to look for mushrooms now,” says Coffan.
Eight cows escaped from a trailer that opened just as the driver
pulled into a McDonald’s in Weber County, Utah, reports The
Associated Press. “Maybe they were going to hop in the freezer
(and) save the middleman,” said a sheriff’s deputy.
A two-hour roundup of the 800-pound cows was dubbed “Operation
Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in the 1950s for refusing to tell
a congressional committee the names of Hollywood communists. The
screenwriter was never honored by his hometown of Grand Junction,
Colorado, for his award-winning work on the movies Spartacus
and Roman Holiday. Quite the opposite: For decades, it
was impossible to find his novel, Eclipse, about the hypocrisy
of Grand Junction natives, in local bookstores, and stories abounded
about people buying the book in order to trash it. But times change,
and thanks to residents with a sense of humor and deep-enough pockets,
a bronze statue of a cigar-smoking Trumbo sitting up in a bathtub—his
favorite place to write—was recently unveiled in a prime spot
downtown. Trumbo still has his detractors. In the anonymous “You
said it” column in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel,
one said: “I will take the plaque of Ten Commandments any
day over a statue of a communist in a bathtub.”
In Surprise, Arizona, some locals had their sensibilities spanked
by a sign for Bad Ass Coffee, a rival to Starbucks that hadn’t
even opened yet. This “crosses the line of good taste,”
miffed residents told the Arizona Republic, though the
paper explained that the name simply describes “a maladjusted
donkey.” One homeowner protested that “We all have small
children … and we don’t want to swear around them.”
The franchise is based in Salt Lake City.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in
Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org).