Random Writings and Photos

Random thoughts and/or photos

Doing it myself: A new door (part three), and a new evaporative cooler

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on July 27, 2021

So, a little while back I wrote about needing to replace the front door of my house. I purchased said door. I hand-planed 1/4 inch off of the one of the long edges. I trimmed the short edge and had to trim a bit more when I tried it out in the doorway – my measurements had been good, but either the floor or the door header were not perfectly level and I had to cut off a a triangular piece to make it fit perfectly. It works. But, I had to leave for a trip to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday, so I put off varnishing the outside of the door with a clear polyurethane with UV protection. The door faces due west and gets an incredible amount of direct sunlight in extremely dry conditions. On my return I removed the hardware: hinges, door knob, and deadbolt, did a bit of sanding, and completed the job.

Of course, since I had removed my old “air conditioning unit” which is not, by any means a conventional refrigerated air system, I still had to deal with acquiring a new unit, an evaporative cooler (aka desert cooler, or “swamp” cooler). The reason it’s often called a desert cooler is that they only work in hot, dry climates, like a desert, which is why an evaporative cooler usually works in El Paso, but not Houston. In fact, the hotter and drier the better. It’s hard to know the specific origin of the swamp adjective. In the time of the pharaohs in Egypt, people used jars of water, ponds, and pools to cool an area, even creating walls of flowing water to cool their building down. Now, this is just a guess, but it’s likely that such water stagnated a bit, and was used by local amphibians and snakes, like a swamp.

So, with the door completed (Hooray), I could finally concentrate of that new cooler. Despite being little more than a metal box with a water pump and a rotating drum used as a fan, they are not cheap. I bought the next-to-the-smallest size roof-mounted unit, about 33 in x 28 in x 28 in. The volume of air it moves is 3000 cubic feet per minute, appropriate for a 1000 sq. ft. house. Mine occupies about 950 sq. ft.

The cost? $387.29 for a side-draft cooler (without a motor). $70.73 for the motor, and $2.71 for motor clamps. $27.19 for legs that attach to each corner to allow leveling it on a pitched roof. I needed to elevate it in order to match the height of the ductwork protruding from my flat roof. With taxes the total would have been about $575. Home Depot offered me $50 off if I’d apply for and use their credit card, but the total was still $525. Understand, this is a box that holds a small water pump that pushes water up over three wood-shavings-filled pads set in the sides that then flows down while the drum fan rotates, pulling air from outside through the wet pads and directs it into the ductwork. The basic principle has been applied for cooling since at least earliest recorded history. When water evaporates, the air is cooled. It’s the same thing that happens when someone wets their hair on a hot day. Feels good for a while. In the evaporative cooler, water flows in as needed, controlled by a simple float that opens or closes the water supply depending on the height of the water in a holding pan at the bottom.

A problem arose when I asked for estimates for installing the unit on my roof: 1.) I don’t have a truck. 2.) While I have experience doing maintenance and repair on all parts of evaporative coolers over the last 44 years, I had never installed one. I still had the water supply line and electric wires from the original installation. Lowe’s Hardware estimated it would take $1900 for the cooler and installation. Nope. Not doing that. I also got an estimate form Home Depot: $1600. Nope. Not doing that either. It was time for me to put my workman’s skills and knowledge to the test. At 70 years old, I found that knowledge a little rusty, like the effort it took to cut, hand plane and line up that new door with the old hinge cuts and frame holes for the knob and deadbolt. The old door had fallen apart and couldn’t be used as a template.

Neither could the old cooler – it was gone. It took myself and two other men to haul the new unit up my ladder to the roof. Then I had to figure out how to attach it to the existing ductwork. In the process of helping me remove it, after I had disconnected the wiring and water line, the two roofers took it upon themselves to pull the old cooler off of the ductwork. I had assumed they knew what they were doing, but they literally ripped if off, assuming it was only held on with tape. It was not. It had been attached with a lot of small screws that I later found embedded in the roofing paint, and a lot of duct tape and caulking. At first, I was bewildered, because they had added a piece of plastic to cover the exposed opening, and used a lot of tape to cover the exposed edge of the ductwork. Since the opening in the cooler was much smaller than the opening of the ductwork, I thought I was going to have to buy some sheet metal and create a coupler to match the two sizes.

However, once I got a look under all that tape and caulk, I found a metal flange that could be attached directly to the cooler body, encompassing the side-draft hole, after I attached the metal legs. Easy peezy. Well, I had to drill holes all around the cooler for some small screws to hold it in place. The old metal flange was bent and warped so it wasn’t going to be an airtight fit. I straightened it as much as possible before attaching it, and applied two tubes full of a silicon caulk all around.

[Did I mention it was hot? It had been above 80°F in May, over 90° for most of June with many days of three digit temperatures, and in the 90s with days of 100+ temperatures in July with higher humidity that I’d ever experienced in Albuquerque before. I was sweating every minute I spent in my house for over two months straight, even sitting perfectly still, and while trying to sleep on top of my bed sheets. I drank copious amounts of water and fruit juices, and took a lot of cold showers. Working on this cooler on the roof was miserable. Often I only worked for 30 minutes to about an hour, then rested and rehydrated, worked, rested and rehydrated, etc. But I got it done in 90°F weather. Although the humidity was 48% that day, the cooler still cooled the house down considerably.]

The wiring was the last obstacle. The schematics that came with the motor were understandable, but that color scheme didn’t match the wires coming from the switchbox controller in the house. The diagram called for a blue or black wire to connect with the water pump switch, and the “common” wires for the pump and the motor are, as usual, white. The ground wires are green. The black wire from the motor needed to connect with the high position switch, and the red wire to the low postion switch. The problem was that the wires coming through the conduit to the roof from the switches below were RED, PURPLE, WHITE, and ORANGE. Crap. Those wires were buried inside the wall, and removing the cover of the swithbox did not expose them. So, I had no idea which color was for what. On top of that, the wires running from the water pump and motor plugs were blue, black, white, brown, orange, green, and red.

The motor has two speeds. The wiring diagram said to connect the black wire to low, and the red wire to high. Orange would not be used for the 110/120 volt motor I had. So, of the four wires coming from the house, I had a red. Red to red, no problem. I assumed white was common. So, purple and orange? Well, I had already tried connecting the water pump blue line to the purple and that worked. So was the orange wire like the orange wires in the house – for 240 volts? I didn’t want to cross connect any other wires from the pump and motor beside the whites and greens, so orange was all that was left. Red and black are usually the main wires in 110/120-volt appliances, so I wondered if, in this case, red was red, or was orange the red? I had to make a quick trip to the hardware store (Lowe’s) for something else, so I found someone to help me locate a part I needed – a large connecting nut for a flexible hose between the conduit box and the cooler. He turned out to be useful to speak with, because he was familiar with cooler connections. He couldn’t tell me which color wire was what, but I would need all four wires. Between us, we decided the orange wire was not just optional for 240 volts in this setup; he thought it might be another “common” wire. So, I connected white to white, red to red, and tried black to orange. Low worked and High worked. Nothing sparked; no breaker tripped. Success! Cool air in the house made me feel so much better.

The thing about all this is that I felt I should be able to do these things myself. There is a sense of uselessness when one retires, at least it was for me. Many people define themselves by their job. When you no longer work a “job”, what are you? I didn’t know. I was nearly broke every month after retirement, as the pension was only enough for rent, electricity, food and gasoline. In my divorce two years earlier, she had gotten the house, I got to keep my pension. I had a place to live, food to eat, and electrical power to play music, listen to radio or watch movies on a TV, but that was it. I couldn’t afford much else. I had planned to travel when I retired. I could hike in the mountains of New Mexico, but traveling to other states or countries was out of the question. I did a lot of hiking.

For a time – eight years – I worked part-time at a winery, making wine: weeding, cleaning ditches, irrigating, plugging gopher holes in the irrigation trenches, pruning fruit trees and grapes, picking fruit, fermenting it, racking it, filtering it, pumping it upstairs from the cellar to a truck-mounted bottling machine we shared with other wineries, labeling wine, moving hundreds of cases of wine around every time we bottled, inventorying all of it, educating people on food-wine pairing, tasting it, and selling it. And cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. But I was not paid. I agreed to accept private stock in lieu of an hourly wage. The vintner died. The winery closed. The winery was sold, and most of the money went for bills and debts that had been racked up over the years by borrowing money to keep the winery going. Fortunately, there was a seperate piece of land where our fruit trees and grapes grew, and that finally sold early this year. Since the winery itself was no longer viable, it was simpy sold as property with a building. The 3 1/2 acres of land used for our fruit orchard and grapes was supposed to realize a lot of money, but after three years on the market, despite having abundant well water, village irrigation, and utility hookups, it did not sell for enough, even including what was left over from selling the winery land and building, to pay back the investment partners or pay me my full wages.

Fortunately, I had started working, occasionally, for the movie industry in New Mexico in 2015, as a minimum-wage background extra. it gave me a little extra income from 2015-2019, but 2020 sucked. Now, Netflix has a studio here, as does CBS, and Amazon, so movies are being made all the time at an ever increasing rate. I can be as busy as I want, and I have a comfortable place to live. My plan is to become an above-the-line actor, join SAG-AFTRA and be represented by an agency so that people looking for actors here can find me. In the meantime, I study, I audition, memorize lines, and I keep some money coming in from the background work.

And I found out that I can still think, still work out problems, still remember old hand-tool skills. It is a very good feeling. Tomorrow I get to act once more, unpaid, in an independent movie that has taken years to complete. The next day I get paid to rollarskate on another set for a TV show. Friday I’m going Salsa dancing at a museum.

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90 1/2 – Mom’s delayed Birthday Party, Crabs and Beer, and a Hike

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on July 4, 2021

Seasoning
One More

On December 31, 2020, my mother turned 90. Due to Covid-19 we all stayed home to be on the safe side for her.

But we simply postponed the party to June 27, 2021. She’s vaccinated; we’re all vaccinated now.

My sister made some of her special beers for the party, an IPA with citra hops and a honey lager with my sister Karen’s honey from her bees. I found I wasn’t much interested in drinking beer anymore. I tasted ’em, but no interest in having more. Hell, I don’t find alcohol very attractive anymore, since I gave up my daily espresso. Hard to believe I’d make such sudden and drastic changes to my habits.

The most shocking thing I found back east was the price of crab meat, crabcakes, or crabs themselves. Due to expectations of a very low crab harvest this year, and severe restrictons on crabbing catches (so they aren’t wiped out) the prices went through the roof. For the party, we bought one (1) bushel of small to medium crabs – cost $300! Never have a bushel of crabs cost that much. Each person could only have a few, but there was plenty of other food. No one knows what is causing such a dramatic change in the crab popualtion. Some say it’s climate change. I believe that could affect spawning and mating habits of lower order animals like crabs. Perhaps we’re next.

Anyway, for myself, there is one thing I have to do after I leave BWI airport, and before I arrive at my brother’s house in Maryland, or my sister’s house in Pennsylvania, and that is to eat a Maryland crabcake. My sister Kathy picked me up from the airport, so we looked for a place on the way to her house. Prices were high, and some places weren’t offering takeout of crabcakes at all. We finally decided on an Italian Restaurant known for its large and tasty crabcakes, Fratelli’s. We ordered on the way, but there were only two choices: a crabcake sandwich plus fries – not the best way to eat one – or a crabcake with red potatoes and a small house salad. I opted for the latter. When we arrived to pick up the order, I asked, “How much?” The maître d’ said, “Market price.” So, that was discouraging right there. Turns out the price was $38. Never in my life have I seen a crabcake go for that much. I was shocked, but hungry (crabcakes are my addiction, and hard to come by in Albuquerque), so I paid. It was a big ball of fresh crabmeat, very lightly cooked. They didn’t include a fork, so I ate fingerfulls of it all the way home. It was good crab, but not flavored with Old Bay seasoning, which is de rigueur for crabs, crabcakes, and shrimp in Maryland. In fact, among the odd spices was pimento – not an ingredient actually used in any Maryland crabcake. But there would be other opportunities.

I priced crab meat while there, intending to take two pounds back with me, but at $45 to $65 and more per pound, I decided not to.

However, the next day, a bar in Manchester, MD (Maryland Mallet) provided me with two well-made, tasty crabcakes for $50 (No sides), which was better, but still far out of the ordinary. I was already pushing my vacation budget as it was.

The night before I left the east coast for home, I joined my sister, her husband, and two cousins at a bar very close to the last place where I grew up: Koco’s, in Lauraville, MD. $36 only got me one crabcake, which my sister and brother-in-law paid for, but I ordered one for myself to take on the plane ride home. I tried to save it, but after a very long flight to my first stop (Austin, TX) I decided to eat it while waiting for my connecting flight to Albuquerque. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, or the airline peanuts, so I was hungry, and the take-out box was beating up the crabcake in travel (I should have repacked it). It was so good. I still didn’t have a fork, and spare forks at airport restaurants are only given to paying customers, so I gobbled up chunks of it with my fingers again. I didn’t care what people thought.

The party for my mom at my sister’s house went fine. They had rented a large canopy for everyone, and I had helped clean up dozens of old white plastic chairs. many of them had been stored in damp conditions, in a shed and in the wooded area by my sister’s house, so they were either blackened with mold, or green with algae, and it was embedded in the plastic itself, so it seemed. I spent hours cleaning them with a pressure washer. I had to place the washer nozzle within a half inch of the surfaces of the chairs to do any good. But I did manage to turn them white again. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I finished, so no need to shower or wash my clothes that day. The chairs are still sitting out on the lawn as of today, waiting for my brother-in-law to finish enclosing a shed to house them all.

There are two very short videos of the steaming of the crabs above. I’d have taken longer videos, but my sister kept putting the cover back on as soon as she added seasoning over the live crabs. The crabs get a little testy about being cooked and seasoned, but they must be cooked alive to avoid deadly diseases that sometimes come with dead crabs, which are scavengers of dead things, after all.

It was fun hanging out with family. I rarely see any of them, being roughly 1800 miles away from most of them. It was a welcome respite from dealing with a damaged hot water pipe on my roof, a dead evaporative cooler not yet replaced, and self-installing a new door. I work background in movies fairly often, just a couple days before I left, and I’ve already taken a Covid test in preparation for a fitting for another movie, with another test to take tomorrow. The fitting is the day after that, but the shoot is later on this month. I have lines for a very small role in another movie, also later this month, and I submitted an audition video for another movie just before I left town. The movie business is back up and running in New Mexico, and there’s lots to do, so I’m glad I had nice break from everything.

Photos from the party –

A few days later, just before leaving, I went for a hike with my brother-in-law Mark, along a stream connected to Gunpowder Falls or Little Gunpowder Falls. I didn’t get in; I’d already found a tick crawling on my leg, and seen poison ivy all over the place.

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The Door (continued) and Prickly Pear Wine

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 19, 2021

So, last evening I finally hung the new door. There’s still work to do. I’m going to stain the inside, and then cover the whole door inside and out with a polymer to protect it from UV light, and make it water resistant. And I need to replace the damaged weatherstripping. This door should last at least 50 years. The old one was soft pine, not fir wood. Haha. I mentioned to my stepdaughter that the door was made of fir, and she pictured fur. A furry door. I laughed at that. It’s a really hilarious image. She looked at me like she was questioning my sanity.

She makes me laugh. We spent hours together recently, which was unusual. We used to have lunch together on her porch during the pandemic. Her job became a work-at-home one, and she was happy with that. She clocked in every day, and was meticulous about working her set hours, so we didn’t have more than an hour for lunch. Then, she got laid off. No more job. She’s OK for now; she’d put some money away in case that happened. It had happened to her before. We still had lunch a few times after that, but she was only comfortable with about an hour’s time. Sometimes she needs to keep to her running schedule; sometimes she likes her privacy.

But last Thursday, I wanted to show her some photo canvases I had made of photos I’d taken when we both used to work for the Anasazi Fields winery in Placitas. We both miss working there, and we dearly miss the winery’s founder and vintner, Jim Fish. So sometimes we drink the wines we used to make, and remember both wine and vintner.

Here is one of the canvases. She liked it and hung it right after I left.

It’s called a Nopalito Sunrise. Nopal cactus is better known as prickly pear cactus. Nopalitos are the pads of the cactus, which is used as a vegetable. We fermented the fruit only. Some people make prickly pear jelly, or candy from the fruit, which is called tuna. The word tuna is from the Taino culture in the Caribbean, but is commonly used in Southwestern Spanish for the prickly pear fruit.

So, Jim Fish created this drink. Champagne is poured in the glass, followed by the prickly pear wine (Napolito, as coined by Jim). The wine is poured slowly, often using a spoon, just like a Black & Tan. In this drink the prickly pear wine floats on top of the champagne. In a Black & Tan, Guinness floats on top of a layer of pale ale.

So, to commerate the occasion, I brought champagne (local – Gruet), and one of the last half bottles of our Nopalito. The color of the Napolito wine is bright purple when fresh, and turns a bit red with the champagne. Unfortunately, the color fades over time in the bottle because we never used preservatives or sulfites in our wines. Much of what is left is a light brown, but tastes the same.

Perhaps it was the champagne, but we ate our spring rolls, and a skewer each of pork or chicken, and drank Nopalito Sunrises, and talked for hours. We’d never done that before, and it was great. We shared memories, and secrets, and laughs.

So, the door, the door. I always get distracted. In the process of taking this door from a large heavy piece of carved wood into an actual door, I used:

  • a hand plane
  • a hammer
  • nails
  • four short (2 x 4)s
  • two joist hangers
  • a pair of pliers
  • two chisels
  • clamps
  • a sanding block
  • a tape measure
  • a combination square
  • a drill
  • a circular saw
  • two hole cutters
  • a nail set, or punch
  • two sawhorses
  • pencils
  • a pencil sharpener
  • a mortise gauge
  • a drill bit
  • a small router bit
  • screwdrivers
  • an adjustable wrench
  • a linoleum or carpet knife
  • and a 36 inch wooden ruler

It was a lot of work – for me – to hang a manufactured door, especially when I needed to perfectly match the existing frame, including the existing hinges, and the holes for the door lock and deadbolt. It worked! The door hangs centered in the frame, it opens and closes smoothly, and both the doorknob lock and the deadbolt function flawlessly. Did I mention how heavy this door is? Solid core, solid fir. I had to carry it to the sawhorses, flip it over, stand it on its edge and rotate it to the opposite edge or surface many times, including testing it in the doorframe after each modifcation. Sure, it took a lot of time, not the least of which was thinking about each tool, and concentrating on not ruining the door. I got a few small splinters, and a small cut which turned into a blood blister after a screwdriver slipped. But I never dropped the door on my toes, which would have broken them or my foot. Did I mention this door was heavy? It doesn’t exactly come with handles, so I had to stretch my arms wide and lift it in all directions. I’m not complaining.

In fact, I enjoyed it. I stopped when I wasn’t sure of something. I stopped when I got frustrated, like when planing took days, or when chiseling never seemed to keep those hinge slots level and uniformly deep. There are electric planes, I found, just like there are table saws, but this was mostly a by-hand project. I did use an electric drill for the door holes, and an electric circular saw to trim the bottom edge, but I think of those as hand tools. After all, I used them in my hand, not built into a large metal table with adjustable rails to keep everything straight and even. Not because I’d have been against that, but I have no place to house such things, nor a steady need for such things.

Things didn’t always go smoothly. The door still had some sap, right where I drilled the holes, and although I drilled each hole halfway from either side, it almost got wrenched out of my hand when it jammed up in a hole. As it was, the jig I slipped over the door as a guide got bumped, so the hole looks a bit funny inside, but that’s OK.

I’ve lots of tools left over from a lifetime of fixing things, or adding things, like a door, or a 12 foot by 20 foot addition to a house, roofing an entire house, and working with concrete. They don’t get much use now, as I rent the place I live in. I could have asked the landlord to hire someone to do work like this, but I’d much rather do it myself. And using tools is so satisfying.

Posted in 2020s, family, Life, love, My Life, wine | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Door, part 2, no thanks to the HOA

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 8, 2021

If you have read the previous entry on this blog (The Door), you know I brought a solid Fir door home from a door shop. The shop is located near the train tracks where they intersect with Rio Bravo Blvd in Albuquerque, although that area is also known as “The South Valley.” Parts of it, especially along the major roads, are part of and serviced by the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, officially founded as a Spanish colony in 1706. The rest is part of the County of Bernalillo, named for the Gonzales-Bernal family that lived in the area before 1692, and created by the Territorial Legislature in 1852. The town of Bernalillo was founded by Don Diego de Vargas, a Spanish Governor of the New Spain territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México in 1695. Before that, the local inhabitants, now called Native Americans, lived here for thousands of years before the continent was named Amerigo after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. A map created in 1507 by Martin Waldseemüller, a German cartographer, was the first to depict part of this continent with the name “America,” a Latinized version of “Amerigo,” although he only meant to use the name for a specific part of Brazil. In 1538, Gerardus Mercator used America to name both the North and South continents on his influential maps. Colonialism produces odd names.

Anyway, enough rambling. I am still working on the door. I cut off a section of the bottom edge easily enough. But I only needed to remove 1/4 inch of the long edge of the door. Although my hand held circular saw was good enough to trim the bottom of the door to fit the frame, I do not trust it or myself to use a 1/8 inch saw blade to remove 1/4 inch of material from a length of 78 1/2 inches, perfectly straight and at a perfect right angle with the flat plane of the door. So, speaking of planes, since, as I said, I do not have access to a table saw, I needed to plane the edge with a hand tool of the type created in the 1860s for that very purpose. Simple, is what I thought. However, Fir wood is very dense, and difficult to work with. You need very sharp tools with a strong edge. I had to sharpen the cutting edge of my hand plane several times over the course of several days to finish that one edge. But it came out beautiful – perfectly level and smooth. These are photos from just before I began planing.

I could find no pre-made jig to hold the door upright on it’s opposite edge, so I made my own. I used a couple of 2-by-4s to hold each of two joist hangers, and braced one edge with the piece of the bottom edge of the door that I cut in half to use for that purpose. I butted one edge against my fireplace banco, so all of my planing had to be done towards the fireplace. As heavy as I thought the door was, and even after I placed a lead brick at each end, the whole door would still move in the direction of the shaving cuts of the hand plane. It was slow going, and very tiring. I took my time to make sure it would be done right.

So, when I finsihed with that a few days ago, I removed the old door, and placed the new one in the opening. It was a perfect fit on the upright sides, but the door frame itself is not a perfect rectangle. The top edge was too high on one side. So, then I had to cut off a tapered piece, starting from 1/4 inch deep at one edge, to zero about three quarters of the way to the other edge. Mission accomplished, but it is very slightly off according to my straight edge. However, it is so slight as to not be noticeable once the door is installed.

Now for the door hinges. I marked the hinge, door knob, and deadbolt positions from the current ones, while I had the door wedged into place. Now I am working on the notches for the door hinge. First I measured the depth of the notch, and made cuts to the 1/8 inch line I scribed. Then I made extra cuts to asssist with chiseling out the wood from the notches. More hand tools. I love it. Next time I will discuss cutting the holes for the door handle and deadbolt.

In the meantime, I am having to deal with the beaurocractic nature of the Home Owner’s Association, which not only dictates the colors used to paint any part of the outside of the houses, but also requires that a form be submitted to the architectural committee of the HOA before performing any modifications, even to the choice of color and and the paint manufacturer. I learned my lesson about that before, but the HOA board changes all the time, and no one seems to understand what was written. This is what is posted on our bulletin board:

Now, I studied this for a while to make sure I understood it. The first three colors are only for gates, doors and trim INSIDE of private courtyards (patios), and may only be used for those. The next five colors, and the attached piece of lumber depict the colors, including varnished natural wood, that can be used for gates, doors and trim BOTH inside and outside of the private courtyards. The first three colors cannot be used for any trim (canales, protruding beams, etc.) outside of the courtyards.

Here are the actual pertinent written instructions from the bylaws of the HOA:

“Beams/Vigas, Canales, Window Trim and Fences located OUTSIDE an individual courtyard:

“Natural wood colors (varnished, natural, stained), Sable (Sherwin Williams SW6083), Tiki Hut (Sherwin Williams SW7509), Whirlpool (Sherwin Williams SW9135) Turkish Tile (Sherwin Williams SW7610), and Jade Dragon (Sherwin Williams SW9129).

“Entry Gates, Front Doors, Window Trim and Beams/Vigas located entirely WITHIN individual courtyards: ANY OF THE ABOVE COLORS plus the following additional colors which may only be used on an entry gate, door or within a courtyard:

“Earthen Jug (Sherwin Williams SW7703), Salute (Sherwin Williams SW7582), and Rivulet (Sherwin Williams SW6760).”

These people are, like many HOAs, simply obsessive and compulsive. And who knows who originally chose those colors, anyway? Be that as it may be, these people who are walking around documenting violations of these bylaws, do not understand the bylaws they quote. I’m told that only those first three colors can be used to paint my gate or door. I repaired and painted my entry gate (with the approved color) after receiving a notice to do so. However, I did not get committee approval by submiting a form about my intended “modification” first. That’s absurd. There is a series of recurring $25 fines for violating the rules, which escalate to $100 per day. And you get fined if you use the approved colors without first submitting an “Architectural Control Committee Request for Approval Form” Just to paint! and with the “correct” paints. Beaurocracy at its finist. I’m working with my landlord now to get those requests in, so I can install the door. My landlord is having to restucco the entire house due to chips and cracks in the existing stucco, after just having to repair a leaking roof, a process that took a year to get approval for and schedule the roofing work, while it continued to leak!

I need approval to replace the evaporative cooler. And Lowe’s Hardware quoted $1500 above the purchase price of $400 to install one of their coolers. I and my landlord’s nephew are going to do it ourselves, if I ever finish this door and get approval from the asshats in the HOA to install it, varnish it, and seal it.

My landlord is tired of all this, and offered to sell the place to me with really good terms, but I don’t know if I could deal with these people anymore. All this aggravation, and I would have to pay about $380 a month in HOA fees just for the privilege of being told what I can and cannot do with my house. But the housing and rental market is rising. Rents are getting too high for me to move even now. I’m retired and seventy years old. I don’t want to move, but I can’t imagine buying a house again either.

Well, at least I have my health, huh?

Posted in 2020s, eremiticism, Life, My Life, opinion, rambling, rants | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Models Are Fun(ny)

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 7, 2021

I attended a shoot recently that the organizer themed as Bicycles & Miniskirts. Miniskirts were huugely popular in the 1960s. Some of the bicycles were vintage, and instead of a miniskirt, one woman wore a minidress, and everyone had fun. These are a few of the hundreds of photos that I took, on the mesa west of Albuquerque, NM. Please do not use or repost these copyrighted photos without permission, in fairness to the models.

Gracie Lou

Nicole

Marisol

Kristy G.

Kristy is represented by DMe Talent Agency, used with permission.

The photoshoot was for the purpose of using some of the photos in CliQ Magazine International, edited and published by Dave Stabley. See: CliQ MAGAZINE INTERNATIONAL.

Posted in 1960s, 2020s, Art, Bicycling, photography | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Door

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 31, 2021

This is about a literal door. A door that has become a problem. It’s a problem I had hoped would be fixable. I am not a carpenter, but I was trained in a variety of tools and equipment in high school. Being of a scientific bent, I also studied algebra, trigonometry, geometry, physics, chemistry, and biology. My after-school activities included Coin Club, Photo Club (which included film development), Computer Club, Drama Club, and Science Club. I was President of that club after years of putting out a weekly mimeographed science newsletter full of synopses of various magazines articles I read. I was not a member of all those clubs simulataneously. I attended that high school for five years from ninth grade to twelth, but I was given below the passing grade of 70 in three subjects during the second half of my junior year, so, I had to repeat the entire year, which I was OK with. I ended up with a nearly perfect understanding of Algebra, did well in Physics, and was placed in the Honor Society in my senior year. I actually tutored other students after school as my Honor Society duty, which is why I ended up dropping most clubs except Science and Drama.

However, my high school education gave me a keen “Theory & Practice” education. I studied drafting (mechanical drawing), and made tools to match. I learned a bit of woodworking, sheetmetal work, and forge. I made a wooden wrench pattern from one of my drawings that was turned into a metal wrench. I cut and hammered, and tempered a cold chisel. I made a small sheetmetal box, spot-welded together, that I kept as a reminder of those years.

But, fast forward 52 years, long after I retired from disease-research laboratory work at a University medical school, and after I spent eight years making wine, while being a background actor for TV and movies, and years studying acting, and suddenly I have to retrieve that woodworking knowledge from high school. The knowledge is there, and it comes back to me, but the skills are weak. I did physical labor during my working career, from electrical work for a carnival to foundry work for architect Paolo Solari at his Scottsdale, Arizona headquarters. My initial job for the University was working as a Mason’s helper. I ran a jack hammer, repaired concrete sidewalks, built block walls, built a baseball dugout, built an underground utility room, installed metal doors in block walls, and even laid a brick floor once in the University President’s former garage.

In addition, in 2006 & 2007, while still married, I added a 12 foot by 20 foot room to my wife’s house, removed the old tar and gravel roof and rotten wood underneath, and shingled the entire house roof and the addition’s roof. I’m handy, but not a skilled craftsman. I did design the addition, but ordered a set of roof trusses (struts) that I had to install manually (and creatively). So I used a lot of power tools, but few hand tools other than a hammer, measuring tape and levels. My wife kicked me out as soon as I finished, so I never got to enjoy the new addition, with the nice raised ceiling I’d installed. I had to leave her the job of completing the electrical wiring and the sheetrocking and painting. I’ve never seen the completed work, but when she moved back to California, she offered (through my step-daughter) to rent the place to me for $50 less than the rent I currently pay. I passed on that. It was a home, not just a house — I couldn’t live there alone with those memories. I suspect that what she wanted was free maintenance by me while I lived there, and rent.

The door? Yes, I said this was about a door. And it is. I’m getting to that. Here’s the door:

For the photo, I simply stood it up against the outside door frame.

It’s a thick outside door made of fir, unfinished, and has no cutouts for the hinges and doorknob and deadbolt. Which is why it’s taking me a while. I contemplated fixing the old door, but it had been ruined when a very large dog door was cut into the lock stile, a lower panel, the lower mullion, and the bottom rail, before I moved in. After I’d lived there a bit, I realized how easy it was to enter the house by reaching up through the door to unlock both the doorknob and the deatbolt in a matter of seconds. In addition, the hole itself was large enough to allow a boy or a slim adult access to my house while I was away from home. I hated that. It’s sealed off now.

THIS IS THE OLD DOOR. I HAD THE DOG DOOR SEALED OFF WITH A PIECE OF THE ORIGINAL DOOR.

↑__ The old door, above, is still there, hanging on. Unfortunately, I had two feral cats at the time that needed to come and go, so I installed a small cat door for them. However, over time, the door frame kept shifting downward. I tightened the hinges, and had to move the mortis for the strike plate down. Recently it had shifted some more, and couldn’t go any lower. I contemplated various options, but I was able to continue using the door by lifting up on it as I closed and locked it. Then one day it collapsed when I opened it. The hinge stile remained connected to the hinges, but the rest of the door pulled away. A lot of dust fell out. I was able to hammer the door back into a semblance of its previous self, but I had to use a crowbar to raise it up high enough to lock it in place. Fortunately, I have a back door.

Both the dog and cat entrances ruined the door’s integrity over time. I don’t know how long the doggy door had been there, but I probably installed the cat door 12 or 13 years ago. I’ve had to open the old door a few times, but it disintegrates a bit every time I do that. The last time, two large pieces of wood fell into the space between the upright “hinge stile” and the bottom “rail”, so I had to chop them out of the way with a handy screwdriver in order to close the door. The door is shot. No carpentry shop will attmept to repair it. They build from scratch only. $900 for a consignment door that was never picked up seemed a little steep. But most of their doors far exceeded that. New door? Not cheap either. A similar pine door would take 12 weeks to order from a retail door seller. I thought at first that I’d take this one apart. It only has old rotten dowels and glue holding it together. A couple dowels are completely shot. The glue holding the whole thing together has completely dried out. Repairing it is doable, but I have no access to equipment to replicate the convex edges on the panels, or the tongue pieces that fit into the door sides. I could have someone make them, but it was going to be an expensive, time-consuming project, and I’d have no door in the meantime.

I let the whole thing go as I pondered the options. Finally, I decided a new door would not only be less trouble, but likely less expensive that any other option. However, on the day that I was to pick one up, the roofers had come to finish up a roof repair. It’s an odd roof. Not only is it a spray-foam covered roof, but the housing complex I live in has a common boiler for hot water, which is also used to heat the house by heat exchange from copper tubing to the ductwork through a blower. The hot-water-feed pipe for the copper tubing runs through the roof. The plumbers nicked the pipe. Hot water geysered all over the place, and leaked into the cut they had made to seal the roof off from my neighbor’s house. The roofers had recommended that we do our roofs at the same time to save money. The owner of the house with which I shared two walls refused. They had some patchwork done, and were not worried about further leaks. The roofers found wet insulation on my side, which they dug out and replaced, but noticed that the neighbor’s house also had wet insulation. I told them, but to no avail. So the plumbers had to build a barrier in the roof between the walls we shared to keep their leaky roof from bleeding water into the insulation on my section of roof.

WHAT A MESS! I had bucketfuls of water pouring in, mostly down the wall, but also over a small bookcase, some shelving, and all the framed photos and art on the wall, and a couple of leaks through the wood ceiling. I got everything off of the wall, moved the bookshelf out, and removed the bottom layer of books whose spines had gotten splashed. There was no real damage, but there were hours of catching water, and mopping up the excess with a closetful of towels, and running them and couple of throwrugs through the washing machine as I exchanged wet for dry. The plumbers completed the work without incident. My neighbor is unhappy about a a partly damp couch back, water that wetted the outside of a small frame containing a Navajo rug, and the stain on the ceiling. However, the ceiling had leaked in that house before, and had never been completely repaired. I could see an old rotten circle of previous damage. The roofers owned up to causing the problem, but the owner wants compensation for more than the actual damage caused. Opportunistic and greedy, I’d say. This wouldn’t have been necessary if they had agreed to have both sections of roof sealed at the same time. But the owner is demanding compensation from the woman I rent my house from. The plumbing work had been properly approved by the HOA that controls our lives here, so there is no reason to blame my landlord. The leak was an accident that the plumbers caused and fixed. Damage is their responsibility.

PARTS OF A DOOR ASSEMBLY

So, finally, back to the door. It’s like a never-ending saga. Thank you for letting me tell the story. Writing is how I deal with stress. Since the door frame is 2 3/4 inches thick, firmly bolted to the adobe wall, I could not replace the frame as well. So I bought the door without cutouts for the hinges, handle, or lock. I need to fit the door to the frame, make sure it has enough space all around, and line up the existing hinges, etc., then mark and measure everything as it is. There is no other way to do this.

I’ve begun work on the door. I fired up my small circular saw and removed a correct amount from the lower rail. Pretty straight. Looks good. I am still working on the door’s upright lock stile, planing it down to the correct size. I’m told to remove 1/8 inch from both sides. The door company, however recommended that I just remove wood from the lock stile side. I do not have a table saw, and no place to put one if I did, so I am falling back on my woodworking knowledge from high school. From experience, I know better than to try to use a circular saw with a 1/8 inch blade to remove 1/4 inch down the full lenth of the door. I own a good sturdy plane with a sharp blade that didn’t need much sharpening. I’ve scribed both sides and filled in the scratches with a pencil. I have planed both sides of that edge to a 45 degree angle up to, but not including the pencil marks. It’s difficult without a workbench to clamp it to. I currently have it lying flat on two sawhorses I had to purchase for this project. It’s heavy enough to mostly stay in place. Later, I will have to rig some way to hold the door upright on the opposite edge, so I can plane the length of that upright stile to remove the remaining wood. I think I can brace one edge against the fireplace banco, which is shorter than the width of the door, and use the sawhorses to hold it vertical. But I’d have to brace those lightweight sawhorses somehow, and I will have to step around them while planing. Later.

Then I have to attach the hardware, see how it fits and how freely the door moves. Then I will have to use a clear stain and sealant, after I get approval from the HOA. They usually require that we use outside contractors, but I’m going to present this door as an emegency repair out of necessity. All they need to do is OK the color, which is bare wood, and on the approved list of colors. However, they don’t allow any work to be done without written permission obtained in writing in advance from the architecture committee. They are very slow to answer. They could fine the landlord. I’ll have to see how this goes. I’ll update that story later.

Next up – a new evaporative cooler. I had to remove the old one before the roofers finshed sealing the roof. It was a rusty, leaking hulk that I’ve kept running for 14 years, tightening the V-belt, oiling the bearings, replacing water pumps, tubing, and floats, and replacing parts of the rusted-out metal sides. A new one in that same size was on sale at Lowe’s Hardware store for $369. I paid $35 for estimates of what it would take to purchase one and have it delivered and installed: $1922.52. That absurd. I suspected that, however. All I did was remove the old cooler. The ductwork is still in place. The eletrical conduit is still there for attaching the unit to power. He wanted to replace all that, and there was no reason to do that. My advice: buy a cooler, but install it yourself or have an independant contractor install it.

I’m going to do it myself. The landlord’s nephew will assist me in picking one up and getting it on the roof. Stay tuned.

Basic Evaporative Cooler, aka desert cooler, swamp cooler, etc.

Posted in 2020s, Life, My Life, rambling, rants, Writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Walker Flats and a Soliatary Llama

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 29, 2021

Photos from a hike to Walker Flats. The mountain peaks are part of the Chimayosos and Jicarita peaks. I was up above Santa Fe, and north of Mora, NM. West of that general area is the Pecos Wilderness. The specific place is called Walker Flats. We were searching for a waterfall and just missed it. Two travelers from Houston, Texas had already found it. We’d have gone back, but two of the people were ready to go home, and I didn’t like the looks of the dark clouds moving in. The winding dirt road we took to get there was full of deep ruts, and undercarriage-busting rocks. I didn’t want to drive on that road at night or in the rain, or in the rain at night. This llama followed us around but didn’t want to be approached too closely. Perhaps she is lost? She was munching on plentiful meadow grass, but two hikers kept trying to feed her almonds and granola bars.

On the way home, we stopped for ice cream, at Rene’s 50’s Diner and Little Alaska Ice Cream Parlor.

Posted in 1950s, 2020s, hiking, photography | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Laundry Dreams? A Dating Adventure?

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 24, 2021

Every once in a while I’ll have a dream that sticks with me after I’m awake. This morning, one of those shook me awake: I was living in some kind of multi-story apartment building, which I have never done, nor have I ever considered doing that. There was someone else in the apartment with me, maybe even two other people. It seemed we were arguing, or deep in some serious discussion. The phone rang. There was a laundry facility in the basement of the building, and my clothes were done. It wasn’t a service, just coin-operated machines, and the drier had finished. So they needed me to come get my clothes out of the machine. I said I’d be right down. As I was telling the other person, or persons, that I had to go get my laundry, there was a knock on my door. It was a large muscular man and I let him in. He had my clothes in a laundry basket. I lifted my arms to take the laundry and dump it on the bed, but he inverted the basket, dumping my clothes on the floor. I didn’t say anything, I just swooped down to pick them up and put them on the bed. They were still slightly damp.

And I was awake. I was confused for a moment, because it was just after 5:00 am, and still dark. I have no place to be, and nothing planned for all day, but I was wide awake. I made some strong tea as dawn broke. I can’t get the dream out of my mind, pondering what the hell it was about. A high-rise apartment? A laundry room? Neither applies.

The dream wasn’t about laundry. Anger? Was the argument about something important? I did have an odd breakup with someone I barely knew a few weeks ago. Diedre was someone I met on a movie set, the set of Matthew McConaughey’s Gold movie. It was shot here in Albuquerque in 2017. I was a background actor on the set for a few scenes. She was also doing background on that set. We had gotten together back then some time later, and gone to watch a movie in this great theater that has a brewery and bar in it. (not a dream – it was real). It was about the time that the Gold movie had been released, 2018, so I think that was what we watched. The movie house has multiple theaters, but it’s been closed since Covid-19 hit. Great place. You can sit at the bar before the movie starts, and then take your drinks with you into the theater. In fact, you can order food, and another drink while you watch the movie and they bring it to you.

After we watched the movie, we talked for a bit at the bar, discussing the movie, and other things. I had seen Diedre at meetings of a local group, Casting Coffee, made up of other people in the movie business, mostly background actors like myself. Before Covid-19 we had get-togethers once every other Saturday for coffee, snacks, and pot-luck items, and we talked shop: what movies were being shot, who was casting, etc. Around Christmas time, I had worn a Santa hat to the meeting. Diedre actually sat down on my lap, joking about what Santa (me) would bring her. It’s an old joke, so I laughed. We finally exchanged phone numbers, which is how our movie date came about.

As we were talking after the movie, she mentioned some friends we had in common, a man and a woman. They had made a short movie themselves, and I had supplied a still photo that was used in the movie as a MacGuffin (an object that is unimportant in itself but figures in the plot). I watched the finished short movie with them. I knew that woman, Tara, also from Casting Coffee meetings, and we had shared driving to and from movie events in Santa Fe a few times. She was then part of a Foundation that promotes movie making in New Mexico, and I had told her about a photography/modeling group that gave photographers and models practical experience and instruction in a photographer’s studio: Guerrilla Photo Group. The group that met there were also interested in movies, and I had obtained my first role with some novice movie makers there. So Tara and I met at the photographer’s studio and she gave a short introduction of her organization for people interested in getting involved in the movie business. I took some photos of Tara that she could use as headshots for casting directors. She had a small role on the TV series “The Night Shift” as a nurse, and they made her ID badge from one of those photos I took of her. I knew the man also, Chuck, who was a close friend of Tara’s.

Is this getting too complicated? I’m just rambling here, trying to piece this thing together.

So, all of that had to do with my conversation with Diedre at the movie theater bar. She talked about those two people, Tara and Chuck, whom she knew well, but she was gossiping about them, and bad-mouthing them. I didn’t like that at all, and never wanted to see her again. I don’t like gossips, and since Tara was a friend of mine, I hadn’t liked what Deidre was saying about Tara and Chuck at all. Malicious gossip and innuendo.

So, jumping forward to the present, in March I met Diedre on a hike organized by a Meetup hiking group. I was actually happy to see her, as a few years had passed. We hiked together and talked some. After the hike I asked if she’d like to get lunch nearby. We met at a popular Cafe in Corrales, a place where I had met a very interesting woman about nine years ago, but that’s a whole different kind of story. The GPG photography/modeling group I was part of then had also been to this same Cafe that night, holding a photography exhibit there, and one of my photos was part of the exhibit back then. So, anyway, during lunch at that Cafe with Diedre, I brought up the whole gossiping thing that had occured years earlier, because, if we were to be friends, I wanted that settled? discussed? It had bugged me about her. She told me about being on the outs with Tara, and having had an argument with her, and Chuck was somehow involved in that, and it was more that I wanted to hear about, but it seemed to explain why Deidre had been gossiping about them, so I decided to let it go.

It turned out that Diedre actually lives near me, and was more interested in having a hiking buddy to fast walk along the ditches in this old farming area. She really wasn’t that interested in hiking with the Meetup group. I agreed to meet her for hikes, since we lived close anyway. Well, fast forwarding a little, we had some enjoyable hikes. I suggested that we get something to eat after the first one, since I hadn’t eaten breakfast. She agreed. That happened a few more times. Once she offered to split the tab, so it seemed we were just to be friends, hiking buddies, which was fine with me. However, that was just a ruse. She kept buying me facemasks, as she didn’t like the generic ones I wore on the hikes (this was pre-vaccinations). She offered me two: a maroon one, a flashy bright paritotic one. She even gave me a photography book. She thought I should wear those skin-tight water-wicking pants that runners and bicyclists wear. Turns out she was curious about my legs and ass, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing, except she was becoming less and less interesting to me. She still gossiped, about other people now, and how people had ghosted her, and wronged her, and I wasn’t interested in any of that. She thought I wasn’t being supportive. I also was becoming suspicious of her, as she was acting like my long-time best friend, and wanted to date more often, pushing through the hikes quickly just so we could go out to eat.

She had also once been talking about crime in the neighborhood, and suddenly spit out: “Those Fucking Mexicans!” which I found horrifying. She herself was born and raised in New Mexico, so an attitude like that shocked me. We discussed it briefly, and she back-pedeled a bit, saying she just meant the ones committting crimes around where she lived, but it harked back to Donald Trump’s habit of lumping all Mexicans together who traveled (legally or illegally) to work in the US, as rapists, killers and thieves. We hadn’t discussed politics, but I was now highly wary of her. We hiked after that, but the discussion sometimes got heated, and I started calling her out on the way she talked about her friends, and I told her if she was so upset, she should call them and try to straighten things out.

I suspected now why people ghosted her and were mad at her. She’s a bit overbearing, and besides gossiping about other people, she has strong opinions about things, opinions that bothered me, so I would tell her what I thought, which was often much the opposite of what she thought. She didn’t like that. I think she wanted a PAL – which at one time was slang for “personal ass licker” a person whose sole value in a friendship is to agree with everything they say, condemn the people and things they don’t like, and like only what they like. It is not how I see real friendship. It’s also a domination thing. Diedre spoke often about how people had wronged her, especially men, whom she saw as always trying to control her. More and more, however, that’s how I saw her, She was critical of the clothes I wore to hike, critical of my house when she was there once, and absolutley sure of her opinions, which she could not discuss without taking offense to anything I said that did not reinforce her own opinions. She said I was trying to control her.

I’m a pretty laid-back kind of guy, so that seemed like a bizarre thing for her to say. But she tried to back it up by saying she had studied psychology and read a lot, so she understood people and understood how people manipulated other people. She also said that she was a really good person, that many people had told her that. An interesting discussion that we had once centered around how people often project their personality flaws onto others they have relationships with, unable to see those things in themselves. It was something we agreed on. However, I could see Diedre doing that herself. I found her manipulative, as I mentioned, but also rude to food workers in the restaurtants we went to, always – and I mean every time – wanting substitutions and additions. Her favorite thing was to ask for “crumbles” to be added to her meatless dishes, by which she meant meat, like hamburger, crumpled over her food dishes, but she didn’t want to pay for it – she fully expected it to given to her free because she smiled when she asked for it. Some waitstaff told her she would have to pay for it, which she didn’t seem to expect. This was a pattern with her.

She usually asked for extras, extra sauce on the side, extra this and that, and it seemed she was used to getting free items, and extra service. She always ordered more than she could eat, and then would specify extra boxes for each of the items on her plate, rather than one container. I saw her actions as rude, self absorbed, and coming from a sense of entitlement. We stopped at a restaurent one evening at 9:30 pm, but they were closing at 10:00 pm, and had already shut down the kitchen. Diedre wouldn’t accept that, insisting not only that they seat us, but that they make food for us, and she asked for the manger, who politely told her she couldn’t do that. She offered to seat us and bring us drinks and snacks, but Diedre wasn’t having any of that. We left. I could see she was used to having her own way, and fit the popular image of people like her who are called “Karens” – those older white women coming from a life of privilege and money who think they should always be obeyed by those lesser than them, and that they know more about everything than anyone else.

I was really disliking this woman. Our talks turned into arguments. I got heated once and apologized. This woman was getting to me, irritating me. Then one night in April I saw her exactly as she was. I had been telling her I wanted some crabcakes. I grew up in Baltimore, “fished” for crabs in the Cheasapeake bay, and know how to make a good crabcake. However, in New Mexico crabmeat is very expensive, and few restuarants use unfrozen, fresh meat, or prepare it the way it’s done in Maryland.

So, when I found an open Pelican’s restaurant offering “Maryland Crabcakes” I was excited. Diedre had helped me shoot a dialogue audition at my house, for which I had promised her a meal. Which is how we had ended up a week earlier at the other restaurant at 9:30 pm, and then ended up getting a couple of good sub sandwiches at Dion’s Italian restaurant take-out window. Diedre didn’t consider that the meal she had been promised, which is why we were going to a nice sit-down dinner for crabcakes.

The meal was a disaster. The crabcakes came two to an order. They weren’t very big, but I was getting that order of two. Diedre insisted that we split the order, and each get one crabcake and something else. Since I was paying anyway, I politely told her to get an order for herself; I wasn’t splitting that – it was what I’d come for. That really pissed her off, which was bothering me, because it confirmed my idea that she expected to get her own way no matter what. But, we agreed to an order of crabcakes for each of us. She said that wasn’t enough, she would need something else, and the other menu items would be too much to eat combined with the crabcakes. I told her she could order whatever she wanted, but she was in a bad mood now because I hadn’t complied with her insistence that I have only one crabcake. They had a menu item that combined a cup of clam chowder and a salad, so I suggested we get that to pair with the crabcakes, and split it. She agreed. However, after I told the waiter what we wanted and he turned to go, she yelled at him: two separate orders of crabcakes, and a seperate chowder and a separate salad, which confused him. So, he brought our crabcakes, and then he brought out the largest bowl of clam chowder I’d ever seen, not part of the combo. Diedra didn’t want any, and I couldn’t eat all that. She tucked into the endless salad menu instead. It was not part of the combo either.

But the meal wasn’t over. Of course, she asked for extra bread, which she just wanted to take home. She wasn’t all that hungry. She asked our poor waiter for a box for the bread, a box for the salad, and even a container for the salad dressing, and, out of boxes, and because I suggested she add the crabcake to the salad – a crabcake salad for later – she insisted that he bring her another box for the leftover crabcake, because she had only been able to eat one of them (in truth, they weren’t very good). The clam chowder hadn’t been all that good either. She had tasted it but hadn’t wanted any, but she didn’t want to take that home too. She insisted that I send the waiter back for another container and take that home with me. I didn’t want to. She kept insiting that I take it and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I just wanted out of there. I finally had to tell her I didn’t like the heavily creamed chowder, and I wasn’t going to eat it. At this point everyone near us was listening to all of this. She finally backed down, sullenly. I took her back to my house so she could get her car. She didn’t insist on hugging as she had been doing, and said that she needed to go home immediately because she had to pee real bad. I offered my bathroom of course, but she said no.

I didn’t expect to hear from her again.

But, of course, I did. She called me wanting to try Pappadeaux, another restaurant I had mentioned that used to have a Maryland chef who made good crabcakes. I told her no, that I had called the restaurant and they were asking $16 for each crabcake, double what I had just paid. But I asked Diedre if she wanted to hike and she agreed. It wasn’t the best hike. She was argumentative and hostile, trying to rehash things we had discussed over and over again. At one point as we made our way back from the hike along a different trail, she pointed out a cactus I had seen earlier that I had commented on. She said: “There’s your cactus again.” I was unsure what she meant, since we had taken a different trail back that she chose. I told her it was not the same one, but she insisted it was. She said I was trying to control her. I told her that I hadn’t understood what she meant, because it couldn’t be since we were on a different trail, farther from the river than when we’d set out. She wasn’t having any of that, and wouldn’t believe me. I let it go. She said, <“Maybe it was the same one,” but she kept insisting we were on the same trail. Then she wanted to go eat. I told her I’d eaten a good breakfast and wasn’t hungry, which was true. She insisted, however, that we go out to eat, and maybe try another restaurant with crabcakes.

She didn’t take kindly to my turning her down on that. So, I told her we weren’t old friends, we weren’t close or family, and I hadn’t liked this way she kept coming on to me, wanting to have regular dates right off the bat, and acting like we were a couple. That really pissed her off. She acted indignant, insisting that she is a good looking, really attractive woman, and I was old and ugly, even though she’d once told me she was almost my age. She said there was no way she’d be interested in me, and that’s the way men, including me, are – so full of ourselves, and so self-centered and deluded that we think women are interested in us when they are not.

Again, I thought that was the last of it, and I was content not to ever have to deal with her again. However, she sent me a long text, the gist of which was that she was still really upset at what I said. It sounded like she wanted me to apologize. I ignored the text, so I got one last retort from her, which I’ve forgotten, because I deleted the conversation entirely. I was actually very happy that she would be out of my life.

When she had been at my house helping read for me for my audition, she had offered to clean my house for me as a job, because I had not been keeping up with dusting and clutter. She’s getting unemployment, but doesn’t want to work. She only wants to go back to art painting. She had asked me if I was getting unemployment too, as so many were during this time of Covid. I had told her I had a small retirement income and was receiving social security as well. She had smiled broadly, and half joking, had said: “Marry Me.”

I dodged a bullet there.

[UPDATE:

Weeks later, I took myself to Pappadeaux. Their crabcakes were exactly the same type as the ones served at Pelican’s: breaded claw meat, not lump meat, but also gaggingly smothered in capers. Now, in a large dish or stew I can take a few capers, but they had prepared the capers in a sauce that they poured over the crabcakes. I picked out the dozens of capers, but there was nothing I could do about the strongly infused taste of capers in the sauce. I could barely taste the flavor of the crabmeat. Capers are way too powerful a taste to me, because they completely overwhelm a delicate flavor like blue crab. I asked if it was possible to get the crabcakes without capers the next time I came, and the server told me I could order them that way. However, at $16 per crabcake, I’m not likely to order them again.]

Posted in 2020s, food, hiking, My Life, rambling | Leave a Comment »

Hiking Somewhere Above Fenton Lake

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 17, 2021

Went for a Meetup hike in the Jemez mountains, way out past Jemez Pueblo. The plan was to hike to an overlook with a good view of Fenton Lake, but hours later, we discovered we’d not taken the right trail to the overlook. Nevertheless, we had a pleasant day with occasional cool breezes or cloud cover, although it was hot in the direct sun. I didn’t get the photos of Fenton Lake I wanted, but, next time. We also stopped at the Intersection of US-550 and NM-4 near San Ysidro to catch some recent art ( @skindian_art ) near the feed store and animal museum there. Here are some photos:

Posted in 2020s, hiking, My Life, photography | Leave a Comment »

CUSP OF A MORNING

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 5, 2021

Sautéd onion
beaten eggs
a lot of green
a dash of salt
a modicum of pepper
a sprinkle of cheese
a drizzle of red.

It’s all good after that.

desayuno

Posted in Art, food, My Life, photography, poem | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

FROZEN CUISINE DIRECTIONS

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 4, 2021

Prep…………………………………………………….Cut to vent…………………………………………………………….
Cook…………………………………………………..high…………………………………………………………………………4 minutes
Stir………………………………………………………and recover……………………………………………………………
Cook again………………………………………..high…………………………………………………………………………2:30 minutes
Stand…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..1 minute.

Posted in 2020s, food, poem | Leave a Comment »

We Are Recreated Repeatedly

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on April 26, 2021

In the hours, days, and years of our lives there is much death and destruction.

Somehow, we find a way to get through the worst of times and reemerge, somewhere, somewhen.

Sadness can’t be forgotten, but we go on, somehow better and stronger.

To live life is to suffer, but it is also to learn from it, to survive and live, to live more fully, boldly, and with the love inside us strengthened by the pain and loss that is really just a small part of us.

There is so much more.

Posted in Life, opinion, Random Thoughts | Leave a Comment »

MY HEART IS NOT AWAKE

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on April 17, 2021

I have heard sleep. 
It is not noisy
not the deep nasal 
blasts of snoring.

It is not talking
into my pillow
or the random
bumps in the night
a heater clicking 
on & off
a coyote yip
or an invisible catfight.

It is not the raucous noise
of an illegal street race.
It is not the rapid tumult
of my erratic heart
that echoes in my head
until I hold my breath
to calm it down.

No, it is not those things. 
Those are normal.
Those are things
I can sleep through.
Long ago I heard sleep
the soft comfort of a 
colicky baby finally asleep
a nearby cat dreaming
the cool caress
of a summer breeze.

Sleep is also the 
soft breathing person
snuggled against me
a slow rhythmic heart 
creating a vibrating bond
between us
connecting me to life
to someone I love
to the earlier afterglow
of a passionate embrace
and heart-thumping
physical love.

That is the sleep I crave.
That is the sound 
my restless heart
longs to feel.





Posted in Dreams, Life, love, madness, memories, My Life, poem, poetry | Leave a Comment »

The Kilala

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 20, 2021

When my father died in 1987, I inherited his two cats, Charlie and Chrissy. He named them after characters in the TV show Charlie’s Angels. I had them for a long time. About 1996, Chrissy died of stomach or liver problems one day while I was working. I buried her in the yard where I lived at the time. I marked it with some bricks. The veterinarian had wanted to take her up to a hospital in Santa Fe for very expensive treatments and follow-up drugs, but I didn’t have that kind of money. The other cat, Charlie, lived much longer. After I married my second wife, I took Charlie with me and established him in my wife’s house. I hated to move and leave Chrissy there. She was dead and buried, but still. Charlie lived with us for many years.

In 2000, on my fiftieth birthday, as I thought I was waking up, I saw my father to the left of the end of the bed, in the small corner formed by the closet and the wall. He looked as I remembered him, but he was many years dead. I knew that, but he was right there, big as life. As first, I just stared. Then I said, “Hey Dad, what have you been up to?” Such a dumb thing to say. He said nothing, but he smirked, the smirk that was a big part of his personality, and appeared to look past me for a moment. Then he turned and walked to my right, along the bottom edge of the bed. As I turned my head to follow him, I seemed to open my eyes. I was still staring at the small corner where I’d seen him, but he wasn’t there or anywhere. The closet door was partly open, exactly as it had been a moment before – same exact clothes hanging there. It was a dream? It sure had been detailed. It was light already, so I got out of bed. I looked where I’d seen my dad look, and there, under the bed, was Charlie, my dad’s old cat. I hadn’t thought about my dad any time recently, and I hadn’t known the cat was there. I couldn’t imagine why I would suddenly have a dream like that. It freaked me out for days.

Charlie woke up and followed me to the kitchen for breakfast. The dream, if such it was, stayed with me. Charlie was fine, and I never had another dream about my father. All was well for awhile, until one evening I realized I hadn’t seen Charlie for many hours. I went looking and found him in the small bathroom in our bedroom. He was acting strange. There was a nasty-looking liquid coming from his eyes. I wet some tissue and wiped it away. That’s when I realized his eyes were gone.

I was shocked. Can a cat’s eyes dissolve? Was there some disease that destroyed eyeballs? He was a cuddly sort, always on my lap and usually on the bed with me at night, so I would have noticed if he had been sick. I wrapped him in a towel and sat with him on my lap for hours. It was late in the evening, and I didn’t know what to do. He seemed OK, except for the eyes. He settled down, and slept. At one point he woke up. I petted him. He purred. He stood straight up and stretched his back in a high arc. I was so happy. He lay back down and went gently to sleep as I petted him, but he never moved again. I buried him in the yard. Some time passed but I grieved for Charlie, and never stopped wondering about his eyes. A couple of years later, at the house of my wife’s friends and neighbors two houses away, I was sitting with the husband who was complaining about cats shitting on his backyard lawn. He had a pellet gun and said he shot any cat he saw in his yard. He bragged about being able to shoot them right in the eyes at night because of the way cats’ eyes glow from reflected light. It took me a minute to make the connection. Charlie had been dead awhile. I walked home by myself. I never mentioned it to my wife because the couple were close friends of hers, and we saw each other often. I thought about calling the police, but I didn’t really have any evidence.

One day, a beautiful cat showed up in my backyard, nursing a litter of little fur balls. They kept to themselves around the corner of the house. The kittens grew up and wandered off. I was happy the momma cat stayed. I had her spayed. The veterinary clinic said to keep her inside for a while. I had to keep her in the pet carrier, as she wasn’t used to being inside. She’d gotten used to me and the yard. When I finally let her out, she seemed fine. She stayed nearby. A few days later I found her dead in my wife’s vegetable garden, a victim of bad surgery? Or some chemical my wife had put out to get rid of the bugs eating her vegetables?

I was sad, but sometime later, another pregnant cat showed up. This time I put food out every day for her and then for her kittens when they got old enough. I planned to offer the kittens for adoption when they were ready, after at least three or four months. My wife did not want cats living in the yard anymore. It was fun to watch them develop. They mostly hung out on the patio outside the sliding glass doors. The mother cat kept them in line, and I watched as she taught them all to hunt. She would bring an injured mouse to them, and let them learn how to catch it, and that it was food.

I don’t know why people think they can remove kittens from their mother right away. You really can’t. Some people wait for eight weeks, but veterinarians say that is not nearly enough. They are at greater risk for developmental, social, and health issues. I could see that. At first, of course, the kittens had to feed from her teats, but then she showed them the dry food I had been putting out for her. After that, she began their training for the hunt, how to pee and shit away from their food and sleeping area, and eventual independence. It was beautiful to watch.

One day, while the kittens were still very young, one of them had managed to climb on top of a tall picket fence I’d recently completed. There were pickets on both sides, but there was room enough, apparently, for one of the cats to get inside. I had to undo the screws I’d used to fasten one picket, and he tumbled right out, unharmed. However I found another kitten dead in the pile of wood I still had alongside the fence. Two pieces were construction timbers, very wide, long, and heavy, and I had set them on bricks, upright against the fence, rather than lay them flat, where they might warp. The kittens must have been playing on the boards and knocked them over. One got squashed, and I hadn’t noticed it missing. This kitten I’d just saved ran back to his mother, meowing loudly, not interested in having me comfort him.

I didn’t plan to keep these cats long. I wanted to have them adopted, but my wife kept insisting I get rid of all the cats. I reluctantly agreed, and got a trap. I put the food in one night, and sure enough, mother and kittens were in it the next morning, except for one. I decided I was going to keep him. He was a striped orange cat, identical to my dad’s cat, so I named him Charlie II, but just called him Charlie.

Fast forward one year. Charlie II had learned to come inside for food, and sit on my lap. One fine spring day, another pregnant cat showed up, and I saw Charlie II playing with her. He was neutered, so I knew he wasn’t the father, but they sure liked each other. My wife let me know this time I couldn’t keep the kittens around for long, so after they were weaned, I trapped them and sadly took them to animal control. In the drop-off room, they got loose before I could get them in a cage. They were very lively. They were jumping almost to the ceiling and bouncing all over the place. It was really sad, because, at the time, they would likely be euthanized. But not the mother.

She was very young herself. I read once that cats can have litters at six months of age. She was very small and thin, so I made the assumption she was about a year old, possibly less. I fed both cats outside for awhile, but eventually I moved the food indoors, slowly moving it further away from the door, until they were happy coming in to eat together. I never got around to calling her anything but Girl, for another four years. The oddest thing of all was that she had the same colors as my dad’s female cat, with nearly the same pattern. I had both of my dad’s cats back!

Three years later, I was divorced. My wife got the house; I got to keep my pension. And I got to keep both cats. She said they gave her the evil eye. When they came in from outside, they’d give her a wide berth. She was scared of them, and jealous of the affection I gave them. Once I had them settled in at my rental house, I noticed one day that they were scared of my broom, something I’d never threatened them with. I was immediately suspicious of my ex, since she used to put me down for opening those sliding doors for the cats to go in and out. She laughed at me for doing that. And she thought it was stupid that I got down on the floor to play with them. That seemed like odd behavior to me. She had never had pets, and had actually pushed Girl, the new cat, away, when it tried to get onto her lap. Charlie was always on my lap, so Girl thought that was a good idea too. After my wife had freaked out and pushed it off of her legs, Girl never would get on my lap, ever, no matter how much I coaxed, or if I picked her up and put her on my lap. She would just freak out and jump down immediately, so I stopped trying.

Meanwhile I had a friend, a workplace acquaintance who met me every Friday for lunch. We had some things in common, like a love for reading, especially Sci Fi, and Japanese graphic novels called manga. She had cats. We also loved Frito Pies in the cafeteria, but sometimes we’d go for the long walks to a restaurant for Greek gyros or for Chinese fast food. She told me about a manga she liked that had been made into a TV series, available on DVDs. In fact, she lent me a set of those videos to watch at home. There was a cat named Kilala in the story, one who tranformed into a huge flying demon.

I could only watch them when my wife wasn’t at home, or was out of town, as she controlled the TV I’d bought for her, and hated both Sci Fi and animation.

After my divorce, I renamed my female cat as Kilala. It fit. She was still a bit wild, and never allowed herself to be picked up. In fact, getting her into a pet carrier when I moved resulted in bloody, itchy cuts all over my arms. I took her straight to a vet clinic to be chipped.

Over the years my work buddy and I had swapped many books and even Marvel comics. I found her fascinating herself, but while I had been married I knew better than to touch forbidden fruit like that. Actually, after the divorce, when I’d moved into a rental house, I invited her to come see the new place, and although she said she would, she never did. Once, we had a conversation about the new Marvel movie that was opening, Silver Surfer. We both said we were going to see it. So, I asked if we could go there together, or if I could meet her at a theater, but she appeared shocked that I had even asked her, and responded that it was inappropriate. I didn’t continue the conversation, as I was walking her back to her office, and we’d arrived. I never understood the “inappropriate” remark, since I was divorced. But she was young, and I was not. She stopped being available for lunch. Nuff said, as Marvels’s Stan Lee used to say.

So, my cats became my whole family. Charlie and Kilala had a pet door, so they would come and go as they liked, after we got settled in the new place. Actually, the first time I let Kilala out, she disappeared! I was frantic for awhile, feeling like it was my fault due to moving her to a new, unfamiliar neighborhood. I imagined her trying to return to my ex-wife’s house, getting eaten by coyotes, or because of the wide river, using the Rio Grande bridge where she might get hit by a car. It was a long way to go. I didn’t expect to see her again. Still, I called and whistled for her every day. But after nearly three weeks, I hadn’t quite given up, so I put flyers all over the neighborhood, and in stores, asking people to call me, even if they had just seen her. I also put some up all over the 83-house compound where I live. A day or two after posting the flyers in my compound, just after I’d gotten into bed, she just showed up at the back door, which was in my bedroom. As I opened the door, Charlie jumped on her. I thought they’d lick each other and rub together, but, no, he mounted her immediately. That, I thought, was inappropriate at that moment, so I pulled him off so I could feed her. She never disappeared again, and the two cats were inseparable.

In fact, they always came in at night to sleep with me, even after they’d eaten. They would follow me around the house, whether I was in the living room reading or watching movies, or at my desk in the bedroom. Sometimes they’d split the difference and one would be in each place, so they were never far away. Charlie was an excellent hunter, just like his predecessor, and brought rodents and the occasional bird home to eat. There were literally thousands of birds in the area, with the river nearby, irrigation ditches flowing throughout the neighborhood, and the Rio Grande Nature Center sanctuary a mile and a half away. I know cats can be a problem for bird populations, but surrounded by many thousands of birds, I wasn’t worried my two well-fed cats could eat a significant number of them, and since they were neutered, they weren’t breeding. I felt my cats needed to stalk and pounce, or chase a little fresh animal flesh once in awhile to stay healthy.

It’s funny to me that people around here post things about cats about how dangerous cats are to entire populations of wildlife, but they aren’t concerned about the large population of roadrunners around here. Some think the cats might eat the roadrunners, but those birds are fierce, and can kill cats in self defense. In fact, roadrunners can outstrike, kill and eat rattlesnakes. They eat small birds too, raid other birds’ nests for eggs and often expropriate the nests. So, roadrunners, roaming freely in large numbers are as much of a threat to small birds as any cat. Roadrunners, by the way, grow up to two feet long and run 26 miles an hour! And, although coyotes run between 35 and 43 miles an hour, roadrunners can fly short distances. The cartoons had it backwards.

I ramble a lot. Sorry. This was about my cats. I lost Charlie. He disappeared one day – never came in to eat dinner, and the food was still in his bowl the next morning. I contacted Animal Control, but they hadn’t been in the neighborhood, and more to the point hadn’t been called to pick up any dead or sick cats in the entire area where I live. I examined all the nearly identical cats they had, but he was chipped, and they hadn’t scanned him. So, I wondered about him a lot. I put up dozens of posters, about Charlie, this time. Someone told me they’d seen a cat like that in the next neighborhood over, so I walked or ran there every day for six months looking for him. He had always come when I called or whistled for him, but, he was gone. I hoped he was taken in.

A year later, after I’d given up all hope of him coming home, I happened to mention his loss to the leader of a hike I was on. Kilala had never stopped watching for Charlie to come home, and often sat for long hours, obviously depressed. She rarely moved, and appeared to have lost her raison d’etre. I had decided to find her a male companion, pimp for her. The hike leader told me there was a cat living on the golf course in Bernalillo. The clubhouse had been feeding it for a long time, but wanted to adopt it out. The cat would sometimes turn and bite if you touched its back. (Liability issues.) I hoped it was a male. When I checked it out, I was told it was a female, named Snowflake, for the white fur. I agreed to adopt it anyway, but when I went to be approved for the cat by its friends at the golf course, they had just found out it was male. Anyway, the clubhouse members approved of me, and said they would bring the cat over. He also had a small house they had built for him, with added insulation to protect him from the cold winter nights. When they came, they brought him, his house, food and water bowls, and a large supply of food. And, they would visit to check on him, bring treats, and often take me to dinner.

Well, as much as I had hoped otherwise, this cat had only been around humans all his life, and didn’t know what to do around other cats, how to chase, play-fight, hunt, or screw. He’s a disappointment, but eventually the two cats learned to get along, and both slept on my bed. He mostly sleeps, never uses his house, and rarely goes outside at all. I kept the name Snowflake because he responded to it. Kilala likes him, but he just doesn’t respond much to her. He finally let her lick him a little bit, and I’ve sometimes seen him lick her back, but that’s the extent of it.

Shortly, I will bring this little cat epic to a close.

Two years later, I was sure I’d seen Charlie near the Post Office and the Senior Center 2 ½ miles away. The size and markings looked identical. I was in my car, returning from the post office, when I spotted it behind the fence at the back of the Senior Center. I stopped the car, and called his name. He jumped up, and began walking towards me, but stopped, sitting back down with his legs crossed, acting like he had always acted. Unfortunately, I was in the car for one thing, and for another, it was a different car from the car he would have remembered me coming home in. He had always come to greet me when I drove up, and often slept under the car for the shade it provided. However, I was blocking the street, and I had a truck come up behind me. I moved, drove around the block, but he was gone. I went back often, calling his name, and even asked inside the senior center if they were feeding him, but they knew nothing. I never found it. I had seen a collar with a tag around his neck, so I assume he is someone’s cat now, if that was him. I don’t know how he got a license without someone scanning his chip, but it could have fallen out. Of course, maybe it wasn’t him.

I took Kilala to the veterinary clinic this past October 13th. She had been itching a lot. No sign of fleas or ticks, but she had been biting herself and tearing out her fur, which alarmed me. The vet found her skin irritated, likely by some tiny parasite, so he applied a soothing lotion to her, gave her something to calm her down, and also re-upped her rabies shot and whatever else I hadn’t kept up with. He gave me a liquid (selemectin plus sarolaner) to apply to the back of her neck to kill whatever was bothering her, possibly biting lice. It seemed to work. Three months later I finished with her medication, but she started to bite herself a bit. However, she stopped after a few days as I pondered getting more of the liquid drops. Her fur recovered nicely.

But not long after, I noticed she was not grooming herself anymore. She was also sleeping way more, and lethargic. Some matted fur appeared on her flank. She seemed OK, but then she stopped eating as much as she had. In fact, she seemed less and less interested in her food every day. As I petted her I noticed how bony she was becoming. She hadn’t been eating much for some time it seemed. I tried giving her milk in small amounts, as I had occasionally given her some as a treat, although I know it’s not good for cats. She had always loved it, but now wouldn’t touch it. I bought tuna fish, the only other thing she had really loved, but she passed on that too. She was also retching without bringing anything up, sometimes wheezing, and her purring had a funny discordant sound to it. Worried again, on February 9th, I took her in for testing. $425 dollars later, I knew she didn’t have liver or kidney problems, but only a stomach infection. She had been given antibiotics for that. But she was very weak, and the vet cautioned me she might only have months to live. I also had a cream to apply to her ear once daily to stimulate her appetite. Even though I washed my fingers thoroughly, I was petting her, and it seemed to work on me! I have eaten more in the past week than usual (it could also be from stress over Kilala) and suddenly the pants and shirt I had been wearing just a week ago wouldn’t fit – I couldn’t button the pants closed. That’s some fast weight gain!

She didn’t eat that first day after I brought her home, or the next, but then she popped up right away one morning as I walked into the kitchen area. She was hungry, and more energetic. She was drinking water again too. I had high hopes she might recover, given how strong, healthy, and active she had always been, but after a week, she stopped eating much, that I saw, but I did see her drinking. She wouldn’t go outside at all – it was cold and snowing a lot. She slept all day, but moved from spot to spot around the house, including the bathroom, which was odd. It looked like she was going to die after all, and soon. I spent more time with her, petting her for long periods of time. She didn’t object, I put her on my lap too, and for the first time ever, she didn’t object. Last night (Feb. 18, 2021) she moved from where she had been hiding behind the toilet, and flopped down right in the doorway to the bathroom. I kept checking on her, but not only was she not going anywhere, but at one point, even though she was awake, one of her back legs twitched as though she was trying to get up but couldn’t.

I had her on my lap earlier, and had petted her a long time, then she’d been wandering around the house some more, stopping at her favorite spots – back of the bed, bath mat, front door, in front of the fireplace, and other random spots. When she ended up in the bathroom I left her alone. But now, this was it. I felt she was dying and soon. I scooped her up gently and sat down in the comfy living room chair, put the TV on, and petted her for two hours straight, She was breathing slowly, and responsive to my touch. But not purring. Her head was draped across my arm and at one point she appeared to be choking so I adjusted my wrist to her chest in case she had been unintentionally pressing her throat against my wrist. She settled down, and I kept petting her. She fell asleep. As I watched the TV, I kept an eye on her chest. For a time, it was moving, but then I couldn’t tell. She still felt warm, but I stopped and got up. She was dead and already stiff. I tried talking to her to say my final goodbyes – for myself, too late for her – but I could barely speak.

I put her stiff body back on the chair while I fed the Snowflake, who wasn’t even curious about Kilala. I can’t write any more. (Feb 19, 2021)


MORE TO THE STORY (March 3, 2021)

After I had fed the Snowflake, I put Kilala’s body in two overlapping plastic bags, and sat it outside (temperatures were to be below freezing). In the morning I went out to dig her grave. The ground was almost as hard as a rock (mostly clay) and choked with tree roots. I wanted it to be fairly deep, so I stopped and filled it with water to soften it overnight. The following day I finshed the hole more easily. I took Kilala out of the bags so she would readily decompose into the dirt. She was soft and pliable again, but her head lolled loosely. She still felt warm, but the sun was out and it had taken me some time to finish digging the hole. I placed her gently in the hole. I left her collar and tags on, adjusting her head to a natural angle, as though she was asleep. I placed her food bowl next to her. I covered her gently with a little dirt, and then put the plastic bags on top of her, with some stones, just in case I hadn’t dug the hole deep enough to discourage the coyotes, and then filled in the hole, tamping it down all around to pack the dirt firmly, and replaced the landscaping gravel. I said goodbye again, and placed the outside chair she often slept in over her grave. I sat in it for a bit, remembering her.

Two days after her burial, I went out, intending to sit in that chair in the sunlight. As I plopped into the cushion on it, I heard a tiny meow. I looked around and my other cat was not outside. My neighbors don’t have cats. I jumped off the chair, put my mouth near the ground, and called Kilala, and added Girl too, but there was no repeat of the sound. It worried me, more than I would have imagined. “Could I have buried her alive?” was my first thought. She’d been stiff as a board that first night, her face caught in a stiff rictus. Then she had spent two nights in freezing temperatures before burial, and double bagged. “How could she have survived?” went through my mind. I knew it was crazy, but stranger things have happened. I wondered if she could have developed rabies from her recent inoculation, and if paralysis could have developed, “Parhaps a coma?” It bothered me so much, but I knew it would be even crazier to dig her up. She had to be dead. I never should have handled her soft, warm body before burying her. It took me days to finally accept that she was dead. Gone. Sometimes I sit in the chair and talk to her. My small cat family, begun with my dad’s two cats, and the two nearly indentical ones that followed, was gone. That connection I had maintained though them to my father was gone. I hadn’t realized I’d wrapped my grief up in those four cats, beginning from his funeral in 1987 until 2021.

My mother turned 90 on New Year’s Eve. My siblings and I had planned a party, but we were limited to a Zoom meeting due to the pandemic restrictions, and her poor health. We all live in widely separate parts of the country. She’s beginning to decline mentally, but we’ve agreed on an in-person 90 ½ birthday get-together in June. We’re an optimisitc bunch, all lucky seven of us.

Posted in 2020s, cats, death, My Life, relationships | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Tiny Screens, Tiny Buttons: Nothing New

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 14, 2021

I hated the icon-based Windows GUI when it came out. I felt like Windows had capitulated to Apple by doing that. I never liked the MAC interface; it seemed like computing for dummies. I was introduced to computers in high school in the late 1960s, but they were big with less power than a simple electronic calculator. One had to write a short program in order to have it plug variables into an equation. Of course that was all punch cards then. Took a lot to get anything done. Of course that experience helped me get a job in a research lab.

The equipment I ran was interfaced with a teletype machine, so all the numbers I generated from measurements were punched into a pink teletype data tape. At the end of every day, I walked the tape to the “computing center” and loaded the tape on a reel in a device that converted the punched holes in the tape to punch cards. There was a program already punched into a set of cards, and held together with a rubber band, so I banded that together with the cards from the data I’d collected, and then handed it to the folks at the counter. One did not get near the computers. The techs stacked the cards to run overnight with all the other jobs. I picked up the results the next day as a printout. It was all just a series of average measurements, with statistical info out to seven decimal places. The whole computing center building was greatly refrigerated due to the heat generated by the computers — in the same way computer chips need a cooling fan. Very expensive and energy consuming. And the computer people had to wear coats. Mind you, this was state-of-the-art computing at Johns Hopkins University at the time (late 60s & early 70s).

I operated an oscilloscope, an interferometer, and a double-crystal X-ray spectrometer to, not only measure X-ray wavelengths, but to use X-ray wavelengths to map the internal structure of silicon and germanium crystals, which was really handy later for those computer chips made of silicone. Germanium was used more in transitors than chips.

That was my whole interaction with computers until another research job in the early ’80s had me using biomedical research equipment with built-in HP-85 computers; the interface was a small keypad with tiny buttons — really tiny screen, really tiny buttons. My boss also had a stand-alone HP-85, run off of a program cartridge that controlled other equipment, and it had a nicer keyboard. We upgraded that one with an external floppy disk, for storage, just one disk at first, and then with two for copying disk to disk — woo hoo! On this machine I had a simple line-drawing ski game to play on it. Then – OMG – my boss got a desktop computer about 1985. A 10Mb hard drive! A full-sized keyboard interface. but all commands had to be typed in with DOS commands, using a blank screen.

It was years still before drop-down menus showed up, and the programs had their own screen backgrounds. Bigger screens. Still no mouse though. It was all drop-down menus, and I loved it. I had a modem, and could connect to other computers via a BBS (Bulletin Board System) to download simple games and crappy pictures, chat, leave messages. You could also play games by taking turns, like the way people used snail mail to play chess in the old days with people in other states or countries. One move at a time until the other person logged in and took their turn. But, I could set up multiple games, take my turn on all of them and wait for people to log in and take their turns, so I was able to get some gaming in at work (Scrabble or checkers). One day I finally had to bite the bullet and get Windows, which could still be used with keyboard commands and without the optional mouse, so I was happy about that. Then the drop-down program menus needed a mouse, or awkward combinations of multiple keys to select commands, so I got a mouse. Progress.

But all of that I had to do at work. The cost of home computers was prohibitive for most people, and hard to justify. There were Commodore PET home computers in the 1970s, and Commodore VIC-20s and Atari 400 home computers on the market in the early 1980s, but those cost two or three months rent. The Atari 800 cost about $1000, six months rent or more. The cost of MACs was insane. By 1988, I was able to purchase a used DOS personal computer (Disk Operating System, aka desktop) for myself at home, using student loan money. Mostly I needed it to write papers, because, without it, I had to type. In my classes where I had been typing 25-page papers, I was graded on spelling and punctuation in addition to the subject matter. I went through a lot of typing paper and time trying to get my papers perfect.

8086

My trusty computer at that point had an 8086 Intel 16-bit microprocessor chip, and I had a 20MB “hard” drive, a built-in floppy drive, and a 300 bps modem (bits per second). There was no GUI (Graphic User Interface) and no mouse. I upgraded chips, software, drives, memory, and monitors constantly over the years, as computers and necessary upgrades became less and less expensive. The usded Acer 64-bit system I purchased eight years ago has 6 GB of installed memory (RAM), an Intel Core i3-2100 CPU running at 3.10 GHz. Total cost: $375. I purchased an ASUS 27″ monitor screen ($125) to use with it, because I like to see what I’m doing, sometimes with multiple windows. It is more than enough processing power for all my needs, unless it dies some day.

I don’t think many people even use home desktop systems anymore – now it’s all iPads, laptops, tablets, phones. Mostly phones. Average cost: $600. With their tiny screens and tiny buttons. Progress?

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Chatter Sunday Jan. 31, 2021

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 1, 2021

Although it’s no longer in person, Sunday Chatter in the old furniture store continues to be live-streamed, and then available for a short time afterwards online. I miss those walls and the old doors, the poetry and the coffee, the home-made pastries, and even the occasional cough from the audience that always packed the place every Sunday morning before Covid-19.

Musicians:
David Felberg violin
Joel Becktell cello
Luke Gullickson guitar 
Music
Robert Ashley For Andie Springer, Showing the Form of a Melody, “Standing in the Shadows” by Robert Ashley 
J.S. Bach Cello Suite no. 3 in C major 
Poet Damien Flores was born & raised in Old Town, Albuquerque and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico. Flores is best known as a member of the Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. He organized the College Unions Poetry Slam in 2008, was a member of the two-time National Champion UNM Loboslam Teams, and is also a four-time ABQSlams City Champion. He was named Poet of the Year in 2007 & 2008 by the New Mexico Hispano Entertainer’s Association, and was recipient of the 2008 Lena Todd Award for creative non-fiction from the UNM English Department. His first book, Junkyard Dogs, was published by West End Press and his work has been featured in several anthologies, magazines, and newspapers. Flores is an educator in Albuquerque and hosts the Spoken Word Hour on 89.9 KUNM-FM.

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Movie Soundtracks For a Solitary Man

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on January 17, 2021

Someone asked a public question on Facebook: What is your favorite movie soundtrack? At first I ignored the question. I’m not usually big on soundtracks, unless I really loved the movie and the music moved me. But that started me to thinking about it. I couldn’t come up with a favorite. But I have favorites.

That said, in order as I recall them: the romantic Dr. Zhivago. I watched it because I had read the 1957 book. As with all of the other movies of which I purchased the soundtrack, even though I’ve had dozens of relationships in my early life, and two marriages spanning twenty-one years, I watched it by myself.

2001: A Space Odyssey. After realizing that the portion of Also Sprach Zarathustra on the soundtrack came from a much larger work, I bought the actual work by Richard Strauss — I would listen to it late at night.

Hair (an anti-war, counterculture musical redone as a movie). The Harder They Come introduced me to Raggae. The dark Irish soul-inspired movie The Commitments I watched just following my first divorce! The Sci-fi Babylon 5 (TV show & movie) is actually more interesting than Star Trek or Star Wars.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? tapped into Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, as transpiring in the deep south. House of Flying Daggers has award-winning cinematography with a deeply romantic score, and we’re full circle back from Doctor Zhivago. I’m a romantic.

I’ve listened to them hundreds of times each. There is a soundtrack for At World’s End, one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that came out in movie theaters (remember those?) just after my second divorce; I saw it alone and couldn’t enjoy it. I remember riding my motorcycle at about 120+ miles an hour along Albuquerque’s Coors Blvd at night after I left the theater. But I remembered the music, and it was bittersweet to listen to later on. It’s not a favorite.

I also enjoy the music from Dead Man’s Chest. Also: Pulp Fiction, Soul (which was just released), Tim Burton’s movies, The Graduate, Mary and Max, Chico and Rita, The Point! and Braveheart, but I have never listened to them as much as the ones pictured above. I have 759 albums, but only 26 are soundtracks.

Here are a few of those other great soundtracks, worth listening to again and again.

Chico & Rita is fantastic animation, along with amazing jazz. Mary and Max is a movie about a penpal friendship between a sickly old autistic New Yorker and a lonely poor Australian girl. Although, technically, Myst and Riven are games not movies, the soundtracks are awesome! The Point! is a great story about non-conformity. Soul has a great soundtrack, and musician & composer Jon Batiste just released Music From And Inspired By Disney Pixar Soul – also great.

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Urban Refuge: Valle de Oro

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 20, 2020

Hiked through the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge today, taking photos. It is close to the Rio Grande, within the city limits, and crowded with Cottonwood trees. Much of the area used to be Price’s dairy farm (founded 1906), but the farmland is alfalfa and tall fescue grass now. I could see the grass seeds in the bird droppings all around. Developers salivated over a parcel of land only seven miles from downtown Albuquerque. A few palatial homes got built, but the farmland was purchased by The Trust for Public Land. In 2012 it was transferred to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. We tried parking on the side of the road near the hiking trails, but one of the few homeowners there rudely told us we shouldn’t park there. There is a sign warning people not to park west of the sign, so we parked east of it, but the few people there don’t like strangers anywhere near their nice houses. Rather than antagonize the people there, we left and parked at the visitor center for the Valle del Oro, and hiked back the one mile to the bosque trails.

A working farm remains but is becoming native Middle Rio Grande Valley habitat for resident and migratory wildlife. The bosque, a riparian forest, will be extended to include the old farmland.

Eagles have been seen there, along with the more abundant hawks and the migrating snow geese and sandhill cranes. Of course, there are coyotes. There were a few waterfowl hanging out on sandbars in the middle of the river (low in winter), and swimming along sections of free flowing water, and a few crows in the trees, and we saw no other wildlife today. That doesn’t stop me from taking photos.

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Such a Dream — C’est la vie

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 14, 2020

I woke up early this Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a dream. I was in some small space, and there was a big stain on me, and it went deep into me. I starting thinking about all the religious conditioning I’d expereinced growing up, as I’d written about here recently. Was this stain original sin? Catholic guilt? Was it still festering in me from that early age until now? That hardly seems possible. I was giving it some thought, when I saw my ex-wife in the dream. It was clearly her, but she was all white, not her skin, but there was a bright glow. It was like a spectral aura, but very white. She was smiling — a huge, sincere, happy smile, and she was glad to see me.

That in itself was extremely odd, as she rarely smiled, and spent the last couple years of our relationship not being happy to see me, and not smiling unless she was drinking or talking to her friends or other family on the phone, almost constantly. She had cause, after her daughter had been found to have a brain tumor. But my step-daughter had gone through surgery, chemotherapy, and then a specialized radiation treatment which burned out the tumor, followed by some low-level radiation coupled with more chemotherapy. It seemed to have worked fine. I was estatic, and full of joy that she had survived.

But my ex-wife stayed depressed about it, and felt her daughter would still die. No one, not me, not the doctors, and not her own daughter could convince her otherwise. She became harder to live with, and we diverged. She drank more, I drank less. Experiencing the joy of having my step-daughter survive was the best feeling I’d ever had. It lifted me up. My ex, however, was depressed, wouldn’t seek counseling for herself, or agree to the couples counseling I asked for. She was very angry with me for things I’d said, things I wouldn’t have said if she hadn’t badgered me repeatedly to tell her. Nothing bad, but she sure didn’t like me being honest with her. I did my best to make it up to her, but she was having nothing to do with that. She decided I was going to walk out, and wouldn’t listen to me. She wanted me out of her life. She got me to sign a quit-claim on the house we’d financed together — and for which I’d been making all of the mortgage payments for ten years — in exchange for agreeing to go to marriage counseling. Then she changed her mind. She offered to give me money for all the work I’d done on the house, for repairing the water-damaged roof structure, and adding a new roof, and adding a new room to the house. I mentioned a figure, and she blew up. She really, it seemed, just wanted me out. The quit-claim was all she had really wanted. Her biggest fear had always been to end up homeless.

Eventually, after I told her I didn’t want to leave, she told me that if I didn’t leave, she’d call the police and tell them her life was in danger. In such a case, the law would have insisted I move out. Later, she would have to convince a court of that, but after being forced out like that, I wouldn’t have wanted to go back anyway, so I quietly found a place to move to and left. It wasn’t an amicable breakup, and the details are no longer important, but it ended with bad feelings all around. So, it was really surprising to find her in my dream thirteen years later. We haven’t talked, and she’s moved far away. Did she represent an angel?

If so, my early religious conditioning was stronger than I thought!

All of these thoughts occured in the few seconds I was coming fully awake. When I was fully awake, it no longer mattered. There was no pain in my chest, but I felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I rolled over, but it still felt bad. It’s like an anxiety attack, but I’ve nothing to feel anxious about. I’m retired and do what I want when I want to do it. No one tells me what to do, or how to do it, or belittles me, or pushes me away anymore. I just felt like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen to my brain. My lungs are fine, but I had a heart attack six years ago. There’s no reason to expect another, but the tightness in my chest had happened before the heart attack, and then once in the last few weeks, and then again this morning. When that happens, I have to get up and walk around, which I did. It took a while to feel better, but eventually I was OK. My blood pressure was probably elevated at that point, but it’s been pretty steady for a long time, and my bad cholesterol is quite low. I’ve no reason to believe I’ll experience another heart attack. I do wish I could get another untrasound of my heart to see if there are any buildups of plaque in there, but they won’t do that without a compelling reason, like really high blood pressure over a period of time, or I experience severe heart pain. C‘est la vie.

This represents a which-came-first situation. Did I experience a problem beathing, causing physical anxiety that inspired the dream thoughts and woke me up? or did the dream cause the anxiety that woke me up? It’s an odd feeling. I didn’t feel right at all, and there’s a feeling of fear in those situations. That’s odd too, because I’ve already lived a long life, and I don’t normally fear death. During the heart attack years ago I’d felt an intense pressure in my chest as though something was trying to get out, and also fear, but it turned out to not be an alien, just that plaque had built up in a major heart artery and the blood flow was very constricted. It was the blood pushing against the artery wall that I’d felt, and my brain knew it was trouble before I did. After I’d gotten myself to a hospital and they convinced me to allow an angioplasty to clear the clot, the clot shifted while they were prepping me for the procedure — the blood flow was completely shut off in that instant. That did hurt a little, but they went into crisis mode and completed the procedure, saving my life. The before and after sonograms showed it.

If this continues, I may not want to go to sleep again. But I felt fine all day today. Did a lot of reading. There was a package in my mailbox with two small books that’d I’d ordered. I read them, and part of an unpublished novel. Listened to some music. Washed dishes. Cleaned the cat litter box twice. Took out some trash. That’s life too.

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Otero Canyon Hike

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 29, 2020

Otero Canyon runs along the ridges of the Manzanita Mountain foothills, in the Cedro Peak Region, very near to Albuquerque, up what used to be called south New Mexcio 14, and is now denoted as NM 337. The area butts up along an air force base, and parts of it are off limits, due to weapons testing by the air force many years ago. Posted signs warn of possible unexploded ordinance. One of these beautiful Ponderosa pines had recently just been cut down inside the boundaries of the base area, and lay across a dry ditch, blocking anyone from being tempted to travel that way, I suppose.

It was a very pleasant hike. The temperatures were below freezing early this morning just after dawn, but warmed up considerably. There were no winds, and the sky was crystal clear and dark blue all day. There was still some snow in the shadows.

I forgot my camera, but decided to try capturing a few photos on my cheap cell phone anyway:

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Day Ten in Santa Fe, On Set again, 11/11/20, but it’s over

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 12, 2020

11/11/20 (Day ten)

And was it ever cold! Left my Hotel room this morning to a below-freezing temperature again, 25ºF (-4ºC). The car windshield had some ice crystals I needed to scape off. Got to set about 6:00 am (15 minutes late – I missed the last highway change and kept going – finally had to turn around), but only worked to 10:30 am; it had warmed up to 36ºF (2ºC) by then. But the winds were not from the north this time, and the sun was shining in a clear sky, so, not so bad.

It was a good day too. After I was tested for Covid-19, I was early enough to eat, but checked with the wardrobe department first. They weren’t ready. All of their heaters for the changing tents set up for us were out, so they were having to find unused room in the trailers that had heat. Only one person at a time in a room, so it was going to take a while. I had a small pile of crispy bacon, and the catering people made scambled eggs for me, to order, with onions, bacon, green chile, and cheese. And coffee! I got coffee! I was feeling good. There was finally a room available for me. What luxury! Instead of a cold tent flapping in the high winds, I found myself in a spacious warm room, with room to lay out my costume, remove my clothes and get dressed in peace. Yeah, man.

The director was still working on getting some addtional footage of the scene from the night before. He needed backgound for a steady-cam take of the scene (a movable camera carried by a cameraman with a strap-on harness). When he was done with that, he changed the camera again to look back at the scene, from about where I was sitting. Then he wanted to hear us react to the action, instead of being quiet and miming words. So they got some audio. After that, the lead actors would go through their actions again, but from the closer camera postion. Since at least part of me might be seen, and one of the main actors would be reprising her interaction with me, I stayed, while the other background in that scene went back to the nice warm holding area they’d arranged for us – in an actual building.

I doubt I will be seen in that take, but the beautiful and talented lead actress still did the same horrifying action to me, and I was still in fear for my life. Fun. In the earlier takes I was on camera a lot, so I look forward to seeing those few seconds of my face — it’s what many background actors live for. Hours and hours, or even days, in a single scene or many scenes, and if you’re lucky to be seen at all, and not blurred. It’s often so brief you can only show someone what you did by stopping a video of the scene, backing it up and pausing it – “See? right there, there I am.” (If you watch the 2018 movie Ideal Home, look for me walking alongside the actor Paul Rudd in the scene near the end of the movie, as he walks into the airport. I’m the guy in the leather fedora pulling my wheeled luggage. See below:)


from Ideal Home 2018

And we were wrapped for the day today. There is the possibilty we might be needed again for that same scene, so I still can’t go home. One more night in the hotel, but the room was reserved for another day, just in case. After relaxing a bit and writing, I went out, bought a nice print to give to my step-daughter for taking care of my cats while I was gone. I’ll pay her too, because there was stinky cat litter to deal with.

I also picked up some nice hot food to eat in my room: shrimp fried-rice noodles. The sun was still out, but the weather had turned bitter cold the last two nights. The water running over the large rock in front of the hotel was in shade and still frozen from the night before. I was looking forward to going home. I finshed another novel by John D. MacDonald, Slam the Big Door, 1960. It is a good story, and the ending is not what you’d expect from one of his crime novels. What you think might happen doesn’t. The ending itself is unexpected. I enjoyed seeing his mind at work on this one, and the familiar intellectual introspection.

11/12/20 (Day 11)

Last day in Santa Fe. It’s 28ºF (-2ºC). I went out early for breakfast: my last Quiche Lorraine for awhile, and a two-shot Americano. A messaage had been posted late last evening that we were indeed wrapped from the movie. So I am going home today. Yea! The rooms around me are a flurry of noisy activity as other background and a few crew pack up too.

I’m sipping another coffee now – one for the road. It’s a short journey from here, but I feel like I was far, far away in another world. Less than two weeks in Santa Fe, but it felt longer.

I feel good about my work on set, even though I was just an extra, aka “background actor”. The 1st AD and the director were pleased with our work generally. They praised our frightened reactions as perfect. The director used me often in the small scene with the principal actors, and I was told I did great. Well, except for the one time I forgot to take off my mask as the camera rolled. And that other time, when I had not put my arm on the chairback as I had done earlier during a fight scene. It was just a short pickup shot, but continuity, you know? I had moved my arm because the camera was directly across from me and the lights to simulate daylight were behind me. The cameraman had adjusted me to get the shadow off of his lens, So, when first I heard someone say cut! and then someone said, “That guy had his arm on the chairback before,” I didn’t move it when they rolled again. I don’t know why I didn’t, but they hadn’t said anything directly to me. I thought I was helping by not creating shadows, so they rolled and cut because my arm was still not on the chairback. I tried to explain, but it really didn’t matter. You do what they ask, even if you had contradictory instructions before. They rolled again, and it was perfect. I didn’t feel too bad about the mask, because I was told it had happened before. But continuity is critical in movies, and they sometimes don’t notice until shooting is complete and everyone has gone home, the rented equipment has been returned, and the props packed away, the location abandoned. Which will happen soon. But I’m out of there.

As soon as I post this, I will power the laptop down, close and pack it in its carry bag, and load my car with it, my camera, and my clothes. It’s still cold, but luckily, the heater works in my car. And it’s only about an hour to my house. I sold two books on eBay while I was gone. I need to package and ship those today, as well as a book ordered from me on PaperBackSwap (dot com). It a place to trade books, and I read a lot. Well, home is calling to me. I’m outta here.

Posted in 2020s, coffee, COVID-19, In front of the camera, movies, My Life, quarantine | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

So, Day Nine in Santa Fe, Unsequestered

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 11, 2020

Well, actually I’m back in my hotel room now after a ten-hour day, and still can’t go home, but, I did get to work on set. Long-ish day, but not the longest. Had a short drive out of town to set, but I still don’t know Santa Fe very well, so it took a while for me to figure out how to get outta town to the right highway. I had basic directions, and a good idea of where I was going, but after 15 minutes of being lost in Santa Fe, I opened Google Maps to direct me there. However, for some reason the Uber app was running in the background, so every time I touched “Directions” the Google map showed how long it would take an Uber driver to pick me up.

I tried all kinds of things: different searches, turning the phone off and on, and then removing the Uber app. When I did that, I thought: problem solved! But, noooo. An Uber message would still interupt my Google map search, saying I needed to install the Uber app. It was somehow running in my phone’s memory. FInally, as I was running late, I just drove to St. Michaels Drive, and over to St. Francis, and directly to U.S. Interstate 25, which would have put me early to set if I’d just done that instead if trying to use Old Pecos Trail.

Which might have given me time to get into my complicated costume early enough to eat breakfast. By the time my costume was on, with a few substitutions, like a different jacket, a different vest, and after wardrobe sewed a new button onto my pants while I had them on — because I needed one more to hook my suspenders on, and, after the facial hair guy okayed my beard and mustache, and a regular hair stylist okayed my head hair, I was finally ready to go to set, and I caught the last widely spaced people trailer to the actual set. No time to eat, and all I’d had was coffee. “Yippie ki yay, motherfucker.” — Die Hard movie quote. It’s a period piece as you might have guessed.

So, I can’t say what movie set I was on, or what it’s about, or post any photos of set or actors. So, well, sorry, but them’s the rules.

Of course, one of the best things about being a background actor on movie or TV sets is the food, but because of Covid-19, and wearing protective equipment at all times, except when you’re on set in front of the camera, the food would be a box lunch instead of buffet style. Which is fine. I put my request in for fish.

But, lunchtime came and went, and went, and went. I think it was about 3:30pm when we got out lunches, but we couldn’t eat them on set. So, the background “holding” area was a short walk away. We would have to eat quickly, like in 15 minutes. Strange, but doable. I had been ready to eat the set food, which was real cooked food, fruit, salad and drinks — but purely for decoration. But of course you can’t.

I found a spot to sit and opened my bag o’ food. Two containers, one with some delicious fish, and the other with vegetables and some things I never got to see. Firstly, I was so hungry by then, I swallowed too much at once, and was choking. I hadn’t been given a drink, an unheard of circumstance, so I had nothing to wash it down with. However, I spotted a nearly full drink with a straw in it near me, asked if it belonged to anyone, which it didn’t, so I popped the lid off and took a big swig of that. It cleared my throat. But, no sooner did I sit down to attack what was left of my piece of fish, when we were called back to set immediately. I didn’t like that, but sometimes the production gets behind schedule, and they have no time to waste. I stashed my food in a small unlit wooden structure — that now had an open door — in a corner, because you cannot eat or take food to eat on set.

I wish I’d smuggled some with me. We worked a couple more hours, but since the production had the inside scene lit up like day from outside with a ton of lights, I had no idea it was pitch dark. I never found my food, and still had to go back to the place I’d been in the morning, and get out of all those clothes, and hang them neatly for tomorrow. One older gentleman, angry that we’d waited so long for food, and hadn’t been given water, and the lack of heaters to warm up by, or a space out of the wind to eat in, just walked off set. (Our day started out at 23ºF (-5ºC) to a high of 45º (7ºC), with windspeeds of 21mph to 26 mph beteeen 8:am and 2:00pm, and 7mph to 14mph the rest the day.) The production worked around him, substituting another background actor, and not getting a closeup on his face. There is a background actors association here that has drawn up a bill of rights for background actors, which the company backrolling this drama had been happy to agree to. It’s not a union. Only in some places, like LA, do background actors have access to union benefits. Not here. The asssociation is a very informal group. People worry that the movie industry will go elsewhere if the backgrond actors are paid union scale and benefits. Maybe, but maybe not. Some productions have already moved elsewhere though, since our state is only slowly opening up and there has been a spike in Covid-19 cases, and deaths. Other states have not been as restrictive.

The movie industry is under pressure to return to business safely. While employed by this production company at least, we have to take a Rapid covid test every day while on set. Today we all had to take both the Rapid 15-minute test, and the slower, but more accurate, PCR test. Usually you only take one PCR test a week. If you are sick, you can’t get on set, and if your symptoms show up after testing, you have to leave. The production is suspended until there’s been time to isolate anyone in contact with the sick person. Sometimes there are false positives, so that gets worked out quickly. Having several people get sick just shuts the whole thing down.

Anyway, other than the food and water issue today, the company is being good to us. All Covid-19 tests are paid for by them. and we get paid to get tested. Also, as in my case and quite a few others, since we don’t live in Santa Fe, they pay us for all of the sequestering at hotels. Good for the hotels too, because they are hurting. But I also get per diem for food. Good for us, good for Santa Fe restaurants. All in all, it’s a good deal. We also get all of our protective equipment, sanitizer and covid training free.

I’ve eaten since I left set, had some orange juice, and am about to drink a bottle of water as well, so I’m feeling better.

My Wi-Fi internet connection went crazy last night so I couldn’t upload this post last night, and I had to turn in early. 5:45 am call time today, so I must get back on set at the crack of dawn this morning. We were told last night the heaters would be fixed, and there will be food, with time to eat it. And water readily available I hope.

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Santa Fe Sequester, Day 6 (11/7/20)

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 7, 2020

Another Day in Santa Fe. Election results same as last night. Had eggplant Ratatouille in a crepe for breakfast. Not good. Flavorless. Had to add salt, pepper and hotsauce just to finish it. Bought a palmier (elephant ear pastry) to compensate my sad palate. Went back to my room and grabbed my camera. No change in the election results yet.

As I was walking and photographing, I kept hearing truck and car horns blaring. Some went by me with American flags flapping from car windows and truck beds. Concerned, I took one last photo on my way back to my room to check the news.

The AP had called the Presidential race for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I grabbed my camera, and went back out to take photos.

I had decided to walk up Canyon Road looking for things to photograph and get some exercise. However, on my way there were more trucks riding around blaring their horns. They were Trumpers. There was a lot of noise, shouting, and chants over near the New Mexico State Capitol building. There were about a couple hundred maskless people there, protesting the election call, chanting “Stop the steal”, with signs and megaphones calling for a recount. One guy shouted for someone to take their mask off — someone in a car — and then laughed about it, deriding anyone who would wear a mask in a car. They also still wanted Hillary Clinton locked up for her crimes: the child pedophile ring that she and other Democrats were supposed to have run out of a pizza parlor in New York — “Save the children!” How did Trump attract all the conspiracy nuts? Took photos: (only one of which was of six brave Biden supporters nearby).

I got bored with that, and finally made it to Canyon Road. Took a a lot of photos and stopped for tea. Ordered a black tea called “Competition Grade Jin Jun Mei”. It is made from pure tea buds. The processing of this tea is done in stages to coax out the chocolate and honey sweetness, according to the menu. But, like many of China’s most acclaimed teas, the flavor is extremely delicate. My palate is not that refined. The color was fairly light and reddish. I’d rather have a really black Irish breakfast tea, Earl Gray, or a smoked black tea like lapsang souchong <= my favorite!

I was sipping my tea in between bites of homemade pumpkin pie when I decided to check on my messages. Sure enough, I missed one that said I had received an email with details about a mandatory Zoom meeting for all background, standins, etc. It was 1:23pm. The meeting was at 2:00pm. I’d walked for an hour and a half, slowly making my way up Canyon Road, taking the photos below. Google maps said I was 23 minutes from my hotel. I thought about trying to do the Zoom on my phone, but I’d have no privacy (even though I was seated outside), Zoom features are limited on a phone, and there was a light rain teasing.

I decided for the hotel and my laptop. Of course, I needed to pee, and there was someone in the single restroom, and another waiting. I flagged down a waitstaffer, and got my bill paid. The restroom was finally empty, which was great, because I had to do some real speed walking to get back to my room by 2 o’clock. I made it by 1:55. I logged in, but only a few people were there. Then I found out a message had gone out while I was hustling my way back. The meeting was delayed by 45 minutes! Well, that’s the way things go in the movie biz.

The meeting was just a rehash of everthing we needed to know, which had all been covered by a link in the email, and also there was time for questions.

After that, I finished a John D. MacDonald novel, A Bullet for Cinderella. Not bad. Another of his early ones, short and sweet. I spent some time looking over the photos I’d taken earlier, cropping some, deleting some, and decided which ones I liked. By then I wanted a nap. That fast jog back to my room had tired me a little, and I’d been up since 5am.

Later on, I went out to pick up a green chile cheeseburger. Perfect. I needed protein by then. It was so satisfying.

So, without further delay, here are the Canyon Road photos:

Posted in 2020s, Art, current events, food, Life, My Life, photography, poetry, politics | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Sequestering in Santa Fe, Day 5 11/06/20

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 7, 2020

No photos today. Actually, I was up the night before until the wee hours of Friday morning getting those photos from day four edited and uploaded. The hotel’s Wi Fi is problematic at times, and I kept having to restart my laptop and sign in again and again. I went to bed around two in the morning and slept late. Still no change in the elections results. I know I went out to eat, but I can’t remember where. Most of the rest of the day was spent reading.

However, I had an acting class on Zoom to attend at 10:00am. We worked on some monologues and dialogues, getting feedback from the teacher, and getting suggestions from classmates on different ways for create those acting takes, as if we were in an auditon room. Who knows if that will ever happen again! All of our classes are online now, and we’ve all had to set up space in our homes to self-tape auditions. There’s a lot to get right: shutting out any kind of outside sounds, the lighting – especially eliminating shadows, and getting full light on our faces – and having a plain background behind us as we record our own auditions.

It’s a whole different way to do this, and, it is believed by many, including casting directors, that this is the wave of the future. Voice-over actors aleady had been working from home, and have had to set up soundproof areas in their homes. When doing dialogues, we have to either have someone living with us take the other role(s) that in-person readers used to do, or have someone outside the home on their phone or laptop read as we do our lines. It’s way different without having actual people to speak with and get reactions from.

Later that evening, I went back onto Zoom to listen to and perform poetry. It’s how that is done now too. So far, it doesn’t matter about lighting or background, and sometimes other people wander by the camera or a dog barks. Brave New World, indeed.

So, I’ll post the poems I read:

CDX

Death comes for us all
even archbishops
shopkeepers and presidents
doctors and lawyers
mail carriers and drivers
writers and moviemakers
actors and singers
men women children
the bright and the dull
animals trees flowers
planets stars galaxies.

The funny thing is
once we accept that
that we will die
that it’s where it is
where we’re going
then
nothing else matters.

It is freedom
to enjoy life
enjoy the journey.
It is no matter
no matter what
it doesn’t matter.
Life just is.

it rains- enjoy
Sun shines – enjoy
flowers grow – enjoy
raving mad lunatics – enjoy
tomorrow they’ll be gone
marching in the streets – enjoy
tomorrow there’ll be change.
Life is chaos
terrible
depressing
skulduggery
stressful
dangerous.

Life is joy
children music colors smells tastes feelings

stretching running hiking biking playing
living.

Life is change – enjoy
revolt
change things
make things
embrace all
love all
be all.

We’ll die
so?
isn’t it wonderful?
isn’t it freedom?
because
now
right now
we can do anything we want to.

Life
is random key presses
meaningless
meaningful
life is life
make it so.

———————————————————————————-

MADNESS IS A HOT-AIR BALLOON

Perhaps I need to let my madness free.
I worry about madness
People thought me dumb when I was young
So I kept quiet though I burned.

I think terrible thoughts sometimes
So I keep them to myself
Even though the hot pressure builds
Is it better to live crazy than not really live?

Madness restrained is not madness contained.
It leaks out here and there
Stray comments, a wild movement
Depression agitation combustion.

Yes combustion
For, madness restrained doesn’t only leak
It can explode
Violence rape grand-theft murder.

How to portion out my madness?
Let enough out to be happy
Not enough to harm or hurt or die
Just enough to feel relief.

A hot-air balloon can fly even holed
Hundreds of tiny holes in the envelope
From a bad landing in a field of cacti
Yet it still fills rises floats and soars.

For a time.

As long as the propane lasts it rises
As long as wind blows it moves
As long as air is colder outside than in
It can soar through blue sky.

Would that my madness were a balloon
Free to fly
Not too far
Not too high.
Just enough just enough just enough.

Posted in 2020s, current events, depression, In front of the camera, madness, movies, Random Thoughts | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Sequestering in Santa Fe Day 4 (11/05/20)

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 6, 2020

Actually, not much happened today. I read, then walked around a bit trying to decide if I was hungry and what to eat. There are lots of choices in Santa Fe. I decided not to take my camera with me. I walked up various streets, but hunger got me. Didn’t see much that was open or that I wanted, so I went back to San Francisco Street that runs along side Santa Fe Plaza. I passed it, and then went back. Why not? French food it is. Got quiche lorraine for brunch and the best coffee I’d had in a long time. I drink mostly Americanos, and this one rocked. Two shots of espresso and hot water to fill the cup. And they did it right! Most places assume if you get two shots you want some giant cup or mug. No, people drink Americanos for the flavor, not the most liquid they can get. They brought me my Americano in a normal size ceramic cup, about 6 to 8 oz. It was rich and smooth. I enjoyed it so much I can’t wait to go there in the morning for another cup.

The coffee in my room is god-awful, and the machine has trouble delivering all of the water I put in. I’ve had to restart the machine three to four times in order to get a full cup of coffee. For the record, it’s a brew pod in a bag, “Brazil, Regular” by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and the machine is a Cuisinart for making one cup or two at a time. Not espresso, just regular brewed coffee. Weak, almost tasteless coffee.

I wandered through some galleries on my way back to the hotel. I saw some leather figurines in one gallery. It was a very pricey gallery, and the guy running it jumped up when I walked in. I told him I was going to look at something, and he wanted to come with me. He let me go look, and as I was heading out through another part of the gallery I saw him going back to look for me, or if I’d taken anything or done something. Hell, the statuettes were priced in the thousands, although only about 18 inches tall. Very well made, with fine details, really beautiful. Even if I had that kind of money to throw away, why would I need more clutter?

Anyway, that is mostly what Santa Fe seems to be about: reaching out and catering to the very rich. Even souvenir trinkets cost twice as much in Santa Fe as they do in Albuquerque for the exact same items bought in bulk in Mexico.

Finally finished off a paperback I’d brought with me: Turtle Truths, 1997, by Santa Fe writer Cecil Dawkins, who died last year at the age of 91. Cecil wrote mystery stories, usually with a blind sculpter as the detective. However, while this one started out in Sante Fe like the others, most of the story takes place in Jamaica. She wrote four such books, of which I had read three: The Santa Fe Rembrandt, 1993; Clay Dancers, 1994; and Rare Earth, 1995. I also read her collection of short stories: The Quiet Enemy, 1963, and one of her novels: Charleyhorse, 1985.

I have not read her first novel: The Live Goat, 1971, nor the 2002 biography she wrote of Francis Minerva Nunnery, who had worked on a tobacco farm as a child, but at thirteen went to work at the Heinz plant in Pittsburgh, and at twenty-one was shipped off to Colorado to be married to a man she didn’t know. In 1921 Francis escaped to New Mexico in a Model T Ford, settling in Albuquerque, where she worked as a chauffeur, bus driver, boarding house keeper, and night club singer, among other occupations. She never stopped working, living all over New Mexico, ranching, working as a deputy sheriff, and selling real estate. I may have to read that one as it has a foreward by Max Evans.

Max Evans was a very similar kind of person, but who also wrote twenty-seven fiction and nonfiction books, two of which were made into movies: The Rounders, and Hi-Lo Country. Max just died this past August at the age of 95. He called himself the 1000-year-old man. I have a signed print of one of his paintings. He also worked as a cowboy, miner, and a smuggler of gold and bat guano, among the many jobs he had in his life, including participation in the D-Day Normandy Landings in 1944. I have some photos I took of him a couple years ago, but not on this laptop. I’ll insert them here later next week when I’m home.

SANTA FE AT NIGHT ( 28 + 24 images)