Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Last Houston Trip for 2014

The view on takeoff to Houston

a few over Colorado Springs:

and, a week later, the not quite so picturesque view on takeoff to Denver

But the week in between? Not much else, photography-wise.

I took a couple of pictures on the first day, when I was at the downtown library:

the orders from negatives from 1969 and 1976 Post assignments

and an example of one (of many) drawers cataloging old microfiche topics.
The blue (topic) are following by the red (people), etc.

I'd pulled a number of files and scanned more than a dozen things when I tried to save them. After calling over Tim, the reference librarian, and we tried everything, different flash drives, a CD, no luck. The USB ports were simply not working. I needed to get over to the big building to check out the microfilm I'd ordered on my way in before I ran out of time. While I was on the next to last film roll, and remembering why old library storage technology is terrible for trying to look at photographs, Tim appeared with my fiche scans on a flash drive. He'd called the IT guy who came down and worked some magic. What service! Steph picked me up from the library, we met her folks for dinner, and then I cleared out work. 

End of day 1 -- 3 photos.

And there wouldn't be another one taken until I was back at the airport in Houston. 

I did, however, manage to get more than 1800 scans, the vast majority from The Leader.

Thursday I started out at Dobie, and walked out at lunch with 136 scans from choir and 56 from band. Sadly, only two books were in the bandhall, from 1987 and 1988. No one seems to know where on earth the rest of them might be. That afternoon I was at the Leader and used all of Friday, Monday, and Tuesday to keep going. Over the weekend I was able to visit with Marcy on Saturday (and get a few photos from her) and Sunday evening Michelle and I hung out and went through her family's books. There were some great ones there -- Pipe Organ Pizza, Putt-Putt birthdays, Skate Ranch, lots of fellowship hall photos from Sagemont Baptist. Good stuff.

Saturday night we were in the Woodlands to visit with another friend, starting out at dinner, then ending up at Denny's at 1:00 in the morning, still talking and laughing. That was really nice. I wish I'd taken at least one photo of us. 

So, as I am getting out of the car at Intercontinental . . . 

our ONE photo

I'd bought a book I'd really been wanting to read for the trip. Read a little over half of it on the way down and saved the rest for the flight back. 

The first hour of the trip home last night was spent reading the last chapters and looking out the window. 

The second hour, I jotted down thoughts about the book, intertwined with thoughts about the trip, and sent them to myself once I had internet connectivity again.

It's a bit rambling, but it still holds in the light of day.

I am looking out the window of 19A (my superstitious seat #) at the last vestiges of the sunset, another hour left on the flight that is winging me home to Denver. The kid behind me has not stopping kicking the back of my seat, almost comically- sitcom style, but he's small enough that my kidneys can tolerate it. 

I've just finished Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty, which is a book I've been anticipating since I started following her Order of the Good Death online. 

Like Caitlin, I've always been that strange girl who has been fascinated at what happens behind the scenes at a mortuary. The behind-closed-doors mystery of it is both fascinating and a bit scary. In fact, one of few my Navasota-years regrets is not asking for a behind the scenes look at the mortuary owned by my husband's ... um... relative of some cousin-removed factor.

Anyway, that morbidly curious girl who brought dead birds into the house to mourn them, much to her grandmother's consternation and shrieks of horror, still is obsessed, in the very best way, with both the dead, and, to borrow from Sarah Bareilles, chasing the sun. 

So for that girl? This book was perfect.

While I was finishing the book I've leaned forward and taken pictures out the window of the sunset, so much that my center seatmate had to lean over to appreciate it , too. He's a business casual dressed white guy who is around my age, maybe a bit younger, reading what appears from my peripheral vision to be a sort of self-help positive thinking chapter, perhaps from a business psychology course. In other words, not the kind of guy who usually leans over to look at orange clouds.

I influenced that. That makes me smile.

And this seems to feel right, having just finished a book whose thesis, among others, is "media vita in morte sumus" (and every word had to be defiantly refused autocorrection) 

I highlighted a passage that gets to the heart of the book, and underscores everything I've been thinking about in terms of bugging my family about a green burial for me, if at all possible, as well as preserving history and telling stories as often as possible before they're forgotten. 

It's this:

Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact, it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, "the meaning of life is that it ends." Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, live, and create.

This echoed to me from the past week's trip. I am racing against time to preserve photos and history of a tiny, insignificant blip on the map of the world, mainly because, as small is it is in the infinite cosmos, it was everything that shaped and made me who I am today, and its history is my history. I am trying to save the story of a place that has slipped away into memory in a lot of ways, and yet remains alive and vibrant and dynamic in others. The shards of digital artifacts will never tell my individual story of childhood wonders and traumas, of teenage angst and love, of leaving home without understanding what that entailed, and the strange meandering journey that has brought me back to research my native earth.  I'm not sure I would want to share things that intimate publicly.

But in going home again, I find comfort in telling the small stories of place and time that might be lost otherwise. And it even gives me comfort that all of this preservation is on its own limited lifespan. A century from now everyone who reads and remembers and shares a connection to these events will be dust. No matter. I am doing what I love for a place I love right now, while I can. That makes me incredibly happy and grateful.

Also from the book, this little tidbit stuck out to me: the Portuguese have a word with no equivalent in English, saudade, which indicates a longing, tinged with nostalgia, madness, and sickness over something you have lost.

Wen I started this project a year ago, I think I was motivated precisely by that kind of emotion. But strangely, each subsequent trip has found me a little bit less mad or sick over feelings of loss. It's as if this move into amateur historian has given that undercurrent a more powerful outlet to actually create something, new and old, at the same time. Something I'm proud of, as it grows and takes shape. 

With surgery and long rehab looming in the new year, these frequent trips of 2014 may have been just a momentary option that doesn't reappear, but coming home with over 1800 scans means I can fuel the blog for a good while without needing to revisit the well. 

It's been an honor and a privilege to have been granted access to the Leader's files. But more than that, to have gotten to know and love Marie as a friend. I hope I can get back for more stories across her desk over black and white photos. She's planning to use a lot from the blog in the coming year as they celebrate their 40th anniversary. It does my heart good. 

Do you know, as I am pecking out my thoughts next to a now completely dark sky and the lights of Denver below on our final descent, I am hearing "When She Loved Me", the song I sang to Samantha at bedtimes long ago, the one that Bob couldn't stand because it's so sad, even though it makes me smile. I don't know where its coming from, maybe the row behind on an iPad? But it is as clear as day and so, so appropriate in this moment. 

It's sung by a toy who's been left behind when her owner grew up and moved away. But she finds her again, years later. 

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
And when she was sad, I was there to dry her tears
And when she was happy, so was I, when she loved me.

Through the summer and the fall, we had each other, that was all
Just she and I together, like it was meant to be
And when she was lonely, I was there to comfort her
And I knew that she loved me.

So the years went by, I stayed the same
And she began to drift away, I was left alone
Still I waited for the day, when she’d say "I will always love you."

Lonely and forgotten, never thought she’d look my way,
She smiled at me and held me, just like she used to do,
Like she loved me, when she loved me

When somebody loved me, everything was beautiful,
Every hour we spent together, lives within my heart
When she loved me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pinktober is Madness: PLEASE stop funding the pinkwashing

It's October again. 

This is the month that pink ribbons get into full swing, the NFL pinkwashes and promotes misinformation, along with countless other corporations. It's absolute madness.

And believe me, I once bought into it, too. I did the Race for the Cure and wore the pink ribbon. I did the Race for Marilyn, my friend who I lost to breast cancer, and for Jessie's mom. 

But then, I started digging.

Here's the bottom line: the same number of people will die this year from breast cancer that died from it in 1987, pre-Pink. The numbers have not changed in nearly thirty years.

All that pink crap you're buying isn't doing crap for a cure!

Awareness campaigns these days are simply overkill -- and mammograms don't help prevent metastasis. 30% of people who get an earlier stage breast cancer, despite any and all treatment options, including yearly mammograms, will metastasize and die from this disease -- that number, too, has not changed in decades.

So Races for the Cure are really just Races to Fund More Races with Pink Balloons. 

Pink ribbons on your purchases

Stop thinking they do, please. If you just like pink stuff, fine. But do not be deceived that your dollars on that stuff are going anywhere to help find a cure for this disease. 

It's not happening. 

Instead, each year, we get more and more insane pinkwashing from corporations who like to tout how much they are doing for women with breast cancer.

Seriously?? You cannot make this stuff up. Baker Hughes' drilling is fracking. Fracking has 25 known carcinogens involved. But, hey, that pink drill bit is doing so much "for a cure"! Absolute madness.

Komen in particular will sell its soul to any corporation, no  matter how unhealthy it might be, to make a buck. Junk foods, alcohol, cosmetics, all with cancer-causing agents, get to pinkwash themselves in the Komen fountain. And those bucks are ploughed right back into the same things that do nothing to fund real research for a cure. 

You can see more Hall of Shame entries here. Over and over, breast cancer is winked at and/or sexualized, corporations go on a money grab, and the real victims of the disease shout as loudly as they can without really being heard, "STOP THIS MADNESS!"

Slowly, so slowly that another 40,000 women will die each year for the foreseeable future, their voices are cutting through the pink nightmare. 

The Washington Post actually published this over the weekend, and it seems to be getting some visibility, which is a start.

I Survived Breast Cancer but I Hate Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Please, if you want to donate money to finding a cure, do it responsibly, with your eyes wide open. 

Do your research. Consider funding Metavivor instead of buying that pink cocktail at the bar. 

Don't be hoodwinked another year by the pinkwashing. Do it for your loved ones who might still be here if those billions had actually been put into real metastatic research for all these years. Do it for those who are hanging on with hope that someone might discover something very soon, if only there were grants to fund the discoveries. Do it for your daughters and nieces who might stand a chance with their own diagnoses in the coming years. Don't be pinkwashed another minute.

Photo credit:

Family Portraits

Had my first foray into Family Portraiture yesterday. 

Amber texted to see if I'd be willing to try my hand at her family's Christmas Card photos. I usually am focusing on mountains, sometimes wildlife, so the idea of trying to get a group of 8 people, 3 of whom are kindergarten and younger, in a decent pose, with good lighting, and no one blinking or squirming seemed a little daunting, but I told her I've give it a shot. 

Here's a few favorites from the session yesterday: 

that moving hand on Andrew makes me crazy, but there was just no photoshopping it without making it worse.

This was the most real shot we got, but it was fun nonetheless and, luckily, they aren't too picky. Amber said they loved them, so mission accomplished.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tiny House Love

Squeeeeeee! Is it wrong to have a crush on a tiny house? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I do. A fantasy of mine is to have one of these on a mountain as a getaway place.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Breaking Bad Albuquerque Self Guided Tour 2014

So, I discovered the wonder that is Netflix this summer. 

Yes, that makes me about a decade behind the times and a little like saying, "Look at this newfangled thing called a computer I just got!" but there it is.

I had ignored Sam's continued persistence that I should really check out certain series, mostly because I wasn't keen on watching television on a laptop, and because, I know me, and another distraction is like volunteering for another hole in my head. 

But when Nick was here in May for Sam's graduation, I finally got him to sit down and set up the Xbox that gets rarely played. It was a Christmas gift to Bob two year ago and it mainly gathering dust next to the television. That was the beginning of the end. 

I started with Orange is the New Black. It's only two seasons long, and I finished it inside a week. Working from home, I can binge like nobody's business.

Since Sam had seen it already, there wasn't anything stopping from just letting those suckers play through. 

After that, I picked up Mad Men. I'd watched a few episodes with Sam over last Thanksgiving and always enjoy a good period drama, so I started from the first and somehow, in a few weeks, was finished with all six seasons available. Since the series is still going, now I have to wait months and months for Season 7 to hit Netflix. 

It was around that time that Sam, who hadn't made it through all of Mad Men, started to talk about finding a series we could start and finish together. 

We settled on Breaking Bad. It's five seasons, and the whole series is done, so there'd be nothing left hanging. Since her schedule is just three classes, we'd have lots of time to watch before Bob arrived home at night. 

By Season 3, however, things had gone south. Bob would come in from work and catch a bit of what was going on and suddenly, it was a show he wanted to keep up with. No more bingeing during the day. Sam kept going out in the evening with her friends, so she gave up and said she'd watch on her own. 

After that, we went through House of Cards (two seasons) and Sam and I picked up Lost from the beginning and she abandoned me by Season 3 to finish it on my own. (Yay! No waiting around for other people!)

But of all the series, Breaking Bad stood out as one I would happily watch again. The character arc/work of Bryan Cranston . . .  just incredible. By the center of the series, you realize you really despise who he's become, but you cannot stop watching. 

In late July, when I was spending a day with Marci and Ren before they headed home for Texas, I mentioned the series. Ren had seen it, but said he didn't think Marci would get into it. I spent a little time lobbying her to give it a try, especially since we would be in Albuquerque in October and so much of the show is built around the feel of the city in the desert that I wanted to check out some of the locations while we were there. 

I checked back with her in September and, sure enough, she admitted to very late nights watching the show. She finished the series the day before we left. I re-watched the last three episodes that day, too.

There are a number of outlets in the city that will take you on a tour, some even in the Bounder RV featured in the show. But the costs of these things per person?  $15 in gas for all three of us versus $180+ and no control over the places/time.  I think I'll do it myself.

I mapped out the locations and dumped a few that didn't seem very amenable to photographs. I really wanted to check out the Tohajiilee Indian Reservation where many of the scenes were filmed, but an hour and half's drive one way into the desert just wasn't in the cards. (When you watch the episode where Walter White speeds off to the original place they began, in terror that all his money is going up in flames, you see him race out of the city and onto the reservation in what seems like a half an hour's drive, at most.)

When the morning balloon session was finishing up, we were starving and decided to go straight to Rebel Donuts first, even though it was out of the order of the places I'd mapped on the tour. 

We got there around 9:30 to an almost empty place and each of us had a Blue Sky donut and one other choice (mine was a New Mexican chocolate with a hint of heat, Sam went for the "Homer" decorated like the Simpson's iconic donut). 

Once we were carb-ed up, we were ready to hit the city.

Sam pointed out it was hard to blend in with me wearing the Walter White/Heisenberg hat and RV shirt, but I said that was kind of the point. 

So we set off on the tour, selecting the spot furthest out and working our way back into the different quadrants of the city.

If you aren't going out to Tohajiilee, that will be the Twisters, aka Los Pollos Hermanos, used in the series. (4257 Isleta Boulevard Southwest Albuquerque, NM 87105)

My greatest regret of our tour is that we were about 10 minutes off to catch the Breaking Bad Bounder RV parked in the lot. We'd already left and were deep into construction traffic when they turned past us on the way here.

You know how you look heavier on television? The locations also look a LOT bigger on television. Maybe it's the lens, but everything felt smaller in person.

All we needed was an Aztec and a GPS tracker to make the parking lot shot authentic.

(Seriously, there's a real opening for someone to get a few tan Aztecs and rent them out on an hourly basis for this kind of tour!)

Gus Fring's Joint

Bob got to meet Giancarlo Esposito in August and was saying what a very nice man he was, smiling and joking, but as soon as they posed for the boxcutter photo (clips are above in the video), he dropped into that dead killer stare. Bob has the photo and the signed box cutter in a shadow box on display in his room.

We tried a booth shot, but the angle wasn't great. We also didn't get our stone-faced Mexican hitmen looks anywhere close, either.

After Los Pollos, we made our way into Old Town and found a spot to park that wasn't exorbitant ($1.00 for a half hour, done on the honor system where you just slide your cash into the parking # slot)

Marci found a saint hidden in a tree along the walk to the Candy Lady.
24 Romero Street Northwest Albuquerque, NM 87104

The Candy Lady made the Blue Meth props for the show and now has a lot of Breaking Bad memorabilia, as well as $1 bags of the blue stuff available for sale in her shop. They have a Walter White inside for photo-ops, although I pointed out to him he was wearing the wrong shoes. I told him he could find the Walter White desert boots at if he really want to step up his game. Really, the shoes are important.  

From Old Town, we hit up the Dog House, but didn't get to enjoy it's green and pink neon since it was the middle of the day. 1216 Central Ave NW Albuquerque, NM 87102

And just around the corner from there is Jesse's house. The current owners are not thrilled that their residence is a popular location for fans, so we just rolled by and shot a couple from the window.
16th St SW Albuquerque, NM 87104

Tuco's Hideout from Season 2 is really a coffee joint not far away. 906 Park Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Crossroads Motel was way smaller than it seems on the screen, and the signs up indicate they want you to park and come inside to pay to take a photo. Uh, no thanks. Just a drive-by will do, and another shot from the freeway flying past. 1001 Central Avenue NE Albuquerque, NM 87106

Jesse and Jane's duplex was right around the corner. 323 Terrace St SE Albuquerque, NM 87106

and so was the bug car, whose plates were personalized "Cootie"

Between crossing areas, we spotted the Civic Plaza, which I hadn't put on our list, but hey, there it was, right in front of us!

1 Civic Plz NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

Next stop: the Octopus (A1) Car Wash location 9516 Snow  Heights Circle N.E. Albuquerque, New Mexico 87112. 

I really wished we'd gone inside this one.

We headed up and out to Hank and Marie's house, which, of course, they would never be able to afford on a DEA agent and radiologist tech's combined salaries, unless Hank was doing his own drug business on the side.

Cumbre Del Sur Ct NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

And not too far off is the John Robert Dam, where the cleaner picks up Walt and Saul (and tries to get Jessie) to be whisked away to a new identity.

Juan Tabo Blvd NE

Saul Goodman's office is in the most bland shopping center you can imagine. I stuck the blow up Statue of Liberty on top because it felt naked without it.
9800 Montgomery Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111

Following that, it was the mecca of all Breaking Bad tours: Walt and Skylar's house. 3828 Piermont Dr NE Albuquerque, NM 87111

And yes, the lady who lives here has had many pizzas thrown at her roof.

She was in her garage, watching folks when we were there.

Finally, getting hungry and hot, we ended the tour with the Vacuum Store.
2714 4th St NW
I so wish I could find a clip when Saul arrives and says, "It really is a Vacuum store! I thought it was, you know, just a metaphor!"

Sadly, it did not make any of the top ten lists. 

(don't watch if you haven't finished the series!!)

That evening at the Festival, Marci and I each decided we needed this pin to commemorate.

(the turquoise balloon was from last year's inaugural trip)