Random Writings and Photos

Random thoughts and/or photos

Parts of New Mexico Are Greener Than Memory Recalls

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 22, 2022

It has rained, and boy! has it rained. Right at the end of July, I went up in the mountains northwest of Grants, NM. My old friend Mark says it has been raining every day for a month, more than any time in his memory. He has been slowly building a Navajo hogan-inspired cabin out there for a long time. He took an eight-year break but has now returned to it. He says it’s 95% complete, pending some “fixes” to problems that arose. It may never be finished, not 100%. I help out occasionally, but I took the same eight-year period of time off to work for a winery. I took photos up there, as you might expect, only after each day’s work had finished. Mark is aging rapidly, with problems with the veins in his legs, and drives the short distance from his old airstream up the hill to the cabin. He is hiring people to finish the work now, as he is just not that strong anymore. Construction is hard work, and, with unusual problems, professionals are best.

He had built one wall of the structure into the hill, using local rock to create a vertical wall. However, it turns out that the rock is porous, and water seeped right in. Messy. But friends are working to waterproof the wall, and dig drainage channels along the wall, so water doesn’t run down the hill and build up against the wall. There are other finishing touches going on, but the roof is solid without leaks, so hopefully, the fixes will keep the rainwater that flows downhill outside away from the wall. Or perhaps this is a never-ending project. He already has a refrigerator and a wood cooking stove in the house, so habitation is near. Next time I will get some good shots of the interior, and the portal that was under construction then. Meanwhile, Mark invites people out and feeds everyone who comes. He pays the professionals. The food is always good. The scenery is spectacular. So, photos follow freely (click on the first one and scroll along to see them full scale as some of them are panoramic):

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My Blood Was the Wrong Color

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 15, 2022

William Shakespeare wrote: “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Yes, yes we do. There’s a song called, “We all bleed the same,” by Mandisa, featuring TobyMac and Kirk Franklin. It’s a great song, but I bring it up because it speaks to the idea that we’re all the same inside. Here’s the song, if you’re not familiar with it (but you should be):

Here’s another great song along the same lines, country, if you’re into that:

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. The internet can be so distracting! The only point I wanted to make is that I grew up believing this: that we all bleed the same color.

We can’t be that different from another, if, underneath our skin, we’re all the same.

So, I donate blood platelets. There is a critical NEED for blood platelets right now, a shortage. There are not enough donors. If you can, please consider donating platelets. It takes between 1 1/2 to two hours, but please think about it. Cancer patients especially need it.

Today, I was all set to donate blood platelets. I had brought my sides for another audition I have in two days. I’ve had a lot of auditions lately. I made a tape of the lines, and had my script too, so I was going to spend the next two hours working on that. BUT, just as blood started flowing out of my my arm, the technician stared at it, and said: “It’s the wrong color!” Whaaaaat? I thought. The donation equipment (a bit more complicated than for the regular whole blood donation) shows a lot of information on a large computer screen. Color is one of the things monitored by this equipment. So, in addition to the much lighter, brighter color of red coming from my body, the computer was noisily flagging the problem. As it turns out – and I and the technicians had never seen it before – that color means they’ve hit an artery. It flows much faster, hence the lighter color red. I can’t describe the color exactly, but it’s bright, and somewhere on the large spectrum between dark red and pink.

So, that killed the whole donation process. If you can donate blood platelets today, please do so to replace what I wasn’t able to donate. Or soon anyway.

Once I was disconnected, Candice, the tech, put gauze on the puncture as usual, all the time saying she didn’t think she hit an artery, that she never had before. Candice was really appalled that she might have done that. She was hoping she hadn’t, but the computer had flagged the whole donation, so they had to disconnect me and throw everything away. Not much blood was lost, just what was in the long coil of tubing. So, Candice had me put pressure on the spot while she did other things. But, right away, I noticed blood seeping right through the thick gauze, a lot of blood. So, it looked like she had indeed gotten an artery. I felt bad for her. She kept apologizing, but hey, shit happens. I wasn’t worried about it, just regretted that I couldn’t donate platelets today, in fact not for several days. Again – donate platelets in my place if you can. (If you are in the Albuquerque area go to the main blood services center on University Blvd near Indian School Rd.) Tell ’em Terry sent you, or Robert. Legally, my first name is actually Robert, so that’s what’s in their system.

Candice got more gauze and put a lot of pressure on the tiny hole in my arm for 15 minutes. After that, the bleeding had stopped, but she put fresh gauze on, along with strapping a large cold pack over that. I will need to put cold packs on today for a while and be alert for my fingers turning black or blue. Maybe purple?

Anyway, Candice gave me extra cold packs, a couple of warm packs, and more gauze and tape. As I sit here, I have a cold pack taped to my arm, It’s great this way – I can walk around and do things with both arms. Of course, as with any blood donation, I need to keep it wrapped for four hours, and not do any heavy lifting, or use my arm for anything strenuous. I usually don’t need to apply cold or hot packs, but this time I do, mostly to prevent bruising, which is a given considering the large swollen bump on my arm. That happened because, when applying pressure to fast-bleeding wounds, the blood goes where it can, which is under the skin. If it is bruised tonight or tomorrow, I’ll use the hot packs.

So a little adventure today, from a commonplace procedure. A micro-adventure?

And it was nice to meet Candice.

Time to stop procrastinating, and work on the audition (if selected, I will be a character who gets punched in the face, killed, and stuffed in a trunk).

Sounds like fun.

————————————————————————————————————

UPDATES: Sept. 22, 2022

I did indeed develop a bruise from the artery puncture. Colorful, but not painful. There is, after a week, a small nodule under the skin, in the muscle where the needle stick was. Scar tissue, I think. It’s hard, but will push down into the muscle when I press on it. However, I went back Monday, the 19th, and completed a full platelet donation (in the other arm!).

I did not get a part in the small film I mentioned auditioning for. They did ask if I’d be willing to be an extra, But I do less background-extra work these days, and only for money, not for free.

Posted in 2020s, Auditions, health, My Life, song | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Random Photoshoot on Universe

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 10, 2022

Photographer Dave Stabley in Albuquerque, New Mexico, organizes models and photographers to get together for fun photoshoots. There are no requirements, rules, or restrictions. On August 27, we met at Ventana Ranch Park, which is located in the far northwest reaches of Albuquerque on Universe Boulevard. It is a large public space with lots of trees. I was tickled by the idea of shooting on the Universe. There were between thirteen to fifteen models and half a dozen photographers.

Incomparable beauty CREE NICOLE:

Fun-loving AVERY DIXON:

Classy GRACIE LOU, who works with autistic children:

Young Acting Student IZAYAH GUERRERO (trying to decide between a car or motorcycle):

ABBY MAX, athletic and energized:

The sporty & colorful AUSTIN RUTH:

DIANNA LOVE, Pretty in Pink, ♪flowers in her hair♪ :

Shout out and apologies to Aaron Lopez, Angelo Almanzar, Laura Beck, Giovanna Lopez, Lynn Reed and Giavanna Almanzar. This was more models than I’ve ever seen in one place, and I just couldn’t get to everyone. It looked like there were enough photographers to cover everyone.

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Wine Festival Microburst in Albuquerque, with Photos

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 4, 2022

So, yesterday, I attended the Harvest Wine Festival at Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque.

I had done a few tastings but decided to get something to eat. The only place I could find with decent prices was the one above, Jenn’s – and that’s the menu. All of the other places have simple fare at $12 (hotdog & fries), and rest were plates for 13, 14, and $15 or more. I chowed done on a Nathan’s chili dog, then sat chatting with a couple at my table who were newcomers to a wine festival. Then I felt a cool breeze, and had all of a few seconds to savor it before the wind went crazy. The trash from the meal I’d just eaten started to blow away, so I grabbed it, but the wind blew up all of a sudden, ripping the carton, paper, and plasticware right out of my hand like someone had grabbed it from me.

It was a microburst! a mini, mini tornado. I estimate it affected an area 50 feet wide all across the north end of the festival, and right where I was sitting. There was a whistling sound. Near me a trash can fell over and the wind just sucked trash right out of it. It was over quickly, but it was the oddest feeling, as if I had lost touch with the earth. Then there was complete stillness. No wind for a few moments. Looking around I could see the heavy metal pipes that hold the tents up bent and twisted like toothpicks. Most of the tent had collapsed except where I was sitting. Across the way, three winery tents and a couple booths were either completely blown away or partially collapsed. I hadn’t seen any injuries, but I heard later that a few people had been conked on the head, but nothing serious. The rest of the festival people went right on tasting, buying, and selling wine, but the festival staff shut it all down early about 3:30.

On a table in one of the photos, you can see my wine glass sitting right where I had left it, just as it was – upside down on my table. I forgot all about it. Here are some photos:

Afterward, I took a bottle of a 2018 Sauvage, a Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine from Gruet. A nice flavorful, fruit-forward dry champagne.

Posted in 2020s, food, Life, My Life, photography, wine | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Some Minor Plumbing, A Party, & Indian Market

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 24, 2022

So, today, I was inspired to fix the steadily decreasing flow of hot water in my bathroom sink. There was a good flow in the bathtub, and in the kitchen. The connections underneath the sink had leaked years ago, leaving the brass fittings corroded green. It looked awful under there, so I took all of the plumbing for the hot water apart, including the flexible supply line to the faucet, which broke when I tried to remove it. It was a bitch getting the shut-off valve off from the fitting on the copper pipe coming from the wall. First I shut off the main hot water line, but, for safety, shut off the separate cold water feed line. Where I live we get hot water from a community boiler, which is used as both hot water and for heating. Both valves (common globe valves, which I drew in mechanical drawing classes in high school), were hard to close so I had to use a pipe wrench to turn them.

After I had removed all of the connections I biked down to the hardware store to figure out what I needed. For some reason, whoever had installed or replaced the connections had added extra parts from the faucet which only extended the length. Made no sense. I only needed a new faucet supply line and a new shut-off valve. ($18) It took hours to get it all done. When I turned the water back on, I found that the hot water still wasn’t flowing more than before – a very weak stream. So, back to the drawing board. I took the faucet apart to remove the valve stem. The stem looked clean, but I rinsed it out as best I could. It hadn’t looked clogged at all. I had been anticipating buying another one, but I put it back in. The hot water flowed freely after that. When I turned the cold water faucet on, a whole lot of crud came out, rust and dirt and such – very discolored water – but it all cleared up. The tap filter on the output of the tap suddenly filled with tiny bits of stones (probably calcium and other hard water minerals we have in our tap water).

So, hurrah! Problem solved, and I finally got rid of those old corroded connections underneath.

I had been ignoring the problem until I had a guest, and I had to explain that I had been putting off repairs because I suspected the work would not be simple, and I had been incredibly busy with things I found more important. My guest was fine with that and used the kitchen sink to wash up, but today was the first chance I’d had since she left this past Sunday. She is from Arizona, an old friend.

This past weekend we had traveled to Santa Fe on the lovely “Railrunner” train that runs from Los Lunes to Santa Fe. $3.50 round trip for the two of us the first day, but we missed it the next day and had to drive up. She had rented a car so she drove. It was nice to be in Santa Fe again. Indian Market is an annual event that had been postponed for the last two years. This year was the biggest I’d ever seen. The booths stretched from the plaza, north for half a mile at least, and up and down side streets.

Railrunner

All of the galleries in and near the Plaza in Santa Fe were open, providing enticing food, drinks, and demos of art in progress to entice the thousands of visitors into their shops. I had already filled up on a Frito Pie from the original Five and Dime store on the Plaza, which is where Frito Pies were invented: beans, ground meat, red chile sauce, and Fritos, all served in the Frito’s bag itself. I never miss getting one when I’m in Santa Fe. The best thing is that the Häagen-Dazs shop is close by, so I cool off my mouth with a scoop of coffee ice cream after my Frito Pie. Frito Lay, of course, was initially upset that their name had been used without permission, and had sued the little drugstore for using their name, but it all got settled years ago. Hell, around here, you can get a Frito Pie almost everywhere, so that’s a lot of Frito’s Corn Chips that people need for those. Good business for Frito Lay.

Anyway, we walked and walked and gawked at all of the fancy sculptures, paintings, jewelry, and such that show up at Indian Market. There was a pottery sculpture of a dragon-like creature on display in a shop for $13,500. Other pottery goes for thousands as well, especially of the famous potter Maria Martinez, who died in 1980, but her pottery is always around. Artwork in Santa Fe is some of the most expensive that I have ever seen. Antique sculpture, pottery, and rugs fetch a pretty penny in Santa Fe. It is a popular destination for people around the world, so that stuff sells, as well as western clothing, hats, belts, and boots.

I have to admit I got in the buying spirit myself. I avoid buying anything in Santa Fe besides the Frito Pies and ice cream, but I had recently lost a good Panama straw hat to high winds on a movie set. Someone crushed it by stepping on it to stop it from rolling away! I managed to buy a Beaver Brand straw cowboy hat at an estate sale a month ago for $10, but it is a little big and cowboyish to wear around town. The Beaver Brand Hat company has gone out of business, so it seemed like a deal I couldn’t pass up at the time. Here’s what it looks like:

Beaver Brand hat

So, while in Santa Fe, I bought another hat. It is black and made of wool. My friend kept saying how good it looked, so the next day I went back to the store and bought it. I don’t usually care for style. I like hats that keep my head warm or keep the sun off of my face but got the hat anyway. In my defense, it is water resistant, and not too hot to wear during the change of seasons. I think it will do nicely through most of the winter here in the Southwest as well. And, IT’S ADJUSTABLE with a string inside. Here ’tis:

It looks better in person – my mirror is not very clean, and the shadows suck.

I often need to bring a choice of hats to movie sets.

So Indian Market over, I had things to do this week before I could get the sink fixed. Monday morning I was off to the public library downtown, where I was to meet a writer/moviemaker who is putting a radio program together for a podcast. We had already done this, with another actor, but I was too far from the microphone the whole time, so my voice needed to be redone. It’s a good role. I play a nasty villain, and I had to put myself in character for that. We got it done. For once, I didn’t need a hat! The sound is good. The other actor’s voices are recorded, and the writer/director has a truckload of sound effects, a good audio editing program, and a really good script. We’ll see how it goes. I certainly enjoyed the experience.

Yesterday I joined my motorcycle buddies for breakfast in Los Lunes, after which a few of us went for a longer ride. We rode through beautiful country, on side roads, through small towns, country roads, and lots of empty desert, under mostly blue sky with a bunch of fluffy white clouds in it. It had been raining every day, and parts of northern New Mexico that had been on fire got soaked, and there was some flooding along the burn scars. We were lucky and got treated to a glorious day and a great ride with a cool wind.

For the previous two weeks, I’d been memorizing audition roles. I had someone tape one in which I had to do two completely different takes of the same scene. I feel pretty good about my work on that one. No word yet, but that’s normal.

After that, I had to do a self-tape to audition for a healthcare commercial. It involved lines from multiple characters. It seemed like there was to be humor involved, from my interpretation of the scripted lines, so I improvised what I thought went along with the script and was funny. I even added some physical humor. I was really happy with the results. I hope to hear from them. Meanwhile, I have an audition upcoming that’s due in early September – I usually don’t get so much time in advance, but it gave me time to do other things, like a birthday party dinner with people I know in the movie business, a poetry slam competition, getting estimates for dental work, and all the other stuff I’ve already talked about.

Which reminds me – I’d better find that other script and get working on it. They are giving me time to be creative, so I’d better do some thinking about this and create a few different takes on it. The sooner I get that submitted, the better. Then there will be more to do.

Posted in 2020s, acting, Auditions, My Life, poetry | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Winner Take Nothing by Hemingway, A Review

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 22, 2022

I have always liked Hemingway’s short stories. The first book of his I ever read was Up In Michigan. Those stories captivated me in high school, and I endeavored to read more. I’ve read his novels, and only just found this collection of stories written between 1930 and 1933. It is his second book. The stories vary in subject and tone, ranging from Europe and the U.S.A. to forest and city. What sticks out of course are Hemingway’s dialogues. They are, I imagine, collected from hundreds of conversations he remembered during his travels to many and sundry places. They have the feel of actual conversations, neither profound nor trite, but words of the real people he met or observed. Beyond that, I sensed these stories were raw and unpolished, with Hemingway experimenting with style and literary devices. In the titular story, he repeats it three times, for example, showing us three versions he couldn’t choose between. In another story, his descriptions of the countryside, the colors of the fields, the types of crops, and the look of the people are very lush. I’d heard that he tended to use short powerful sentences, but that is not always the case with these stories. All of them are good, and some are exceptional, such as Fathers and Sons, which explodes with violent and sexual imagery set against the bucolic countryside story I mentioned above.

The top image is of the actual book I have, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. This image is of a dust jacket for that book. I’m convinced of that because the book is a 1933 edition and the dust jacket image is of a 1933 Scribner’s hardcover edition, according to the Goodreads website. The book pages have a uniform yellow tone, and the rough cut edges are continually shedding small slivers, so I’m convinced this is the case. I wish I had the dust jacket, but it did its job protecting the covers of my book.

Here’s a sample:

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A July 2, 2022 hike on Sandia’s crest: Rocks, Flowers, and Paragliders

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on July 15, 2022

Went up to the Crest House at the end of Sandia Crest Road at 10,678 ft. Hiked a big loop around the ridge east to the Kiwanis cabin, then over to the Ten-3 restaurant at approximately 10,300 ft. I bought a take-out beer, because they don’t sell take-out food, then hiked the long way back along the western edge with an unobstructed view of the foothills, Albuquerque, and everything west as far as Mount Taylor. It’s a narrow trail with deep drop-offs, descending for a bit until it circles back up to the Crest House, but the view is worth the effort. Note: look closely at the eighth photo – that is the white paraglider soaring high above the Kiwanis cabin. There was also a red & blue paraglider, paintbrush flowers, swallowtail butterflies, and rusty rocks. There are two photos of the Ten-3 restaurant alongside the upper tram tower. One photo shows a tram car heading back down the mountain. Another shows a view to the south.

So, those above are old photos, but here are the pictures from the July 2nd hike (you should be able to click on the photos to see the full images):

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Jonathan Dove, Green Flame, and Dvořák

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 27, 2022

It’s still Sunday evening (06/26/22) as I write this, and it’s still raining. I made it to Chatter Sunday after all, despite my confusion at 01:47 am as to what day it is. After getting home from a movie set in Santa Fe at 5:15 am on Saturday morning, getting one hour of sleep before my 7:30 am dental appointment, and wasting the rest of the day catching up on messages, packaging a couple items to ship, taking naps, and watching a movie, I suddenly found myself thinking I’d missed the Sunday morning chamber music concert. It takes place 50 Sundays a year. And I’d already paid for my ticket since it often sells out.

I was writing after I’d finished the movie, and never imagined it was almost 2:00 in the morning. So, when I saw Sunday on the computer clock, I really thought I’d been doing all that stuff that same day, until I put 2 and 2 together, and realized I hadn’t missed the concert after all. I posted my previous ramblings around 2:00 am and slept. Woke up around 7:00 am, decided not to get up until 9:15 am, and headed out to the home of Chatter Sunday by 9:50 am. Even though I no longer have coffee every day, I got an Americano (two espresso shots in hot water), two tiny palmiers, and a small apricot muffin. I was ready.

Taking the stage were eleven musicians with two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, three ancient French horns, a cello, and a double bass.

First up was Figures in the Garden by contemporary composer Jonathan Dove. It was superb! I enjoyed it very much. It was based on music from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, but with a unique modern tempo and variations.

Next up was the poet Pamela Uschuk. (Spoken Word is always a feature of Chatter Sunday.) She surprised me with her poetry, her background, and her history of surviving cancer. She has a European heritage with family in Ukraine, so she spoke of that and support for the refugees from Ukraine. Sergei Vassiliev, on clarinet, from Ukraine himself, also spoke about the war, his relatives still in Ukraine, and his mother, who not only lives in the U.S. now but was in the audience. We gave her a heartfelt round of applause. Ah, I distracted myself again – I was talking about the poet Ms. Uschuk. She graced us with four poems, including her wonderful poem BULK, recently updated, about many things, including her brother, elephants, bullets, an Israeli humvee wracking Gaza streets, and the bulk of lotus blossoms a manatee hugs to her chest to eat. A fasinating look at things she considered important to tell us about, connected by the common concept of bulk.

My favorite poem of hers is GREEN FLAME. Here tis:

Slender as my ring finger, the female hummingbird crashed

into plate glass separating her and me

before we could ask each other’s name. Green Flame,

she launched from a dead eucalyptus limb.

Almost on impact, she was gone, her needle beak

opening twice to speak the abrupt language of her going,

taking in the day’s rising heat as I took

one more scalding breath, horrified by death’s velocity.

Too weak from chemo not to cry

for the passage of her emerald shine,

I lifted her weightlessness into my palm.

Mourning doves moaned, who, who,

oh who while her wings closed against the tiny body

sky would quick forget as soon as it would forget mine.

There followed Hymnus no. 2 by Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998).

After Chatter’s traditional two minutes of silence, we were treated to the 1878 Serenade for Winds in D minor op. 44, by Dvořák. It was rousing. It was rhythmic. Really, parts of this were based on Slavonic style. And, it was danceable! I happily tapped my right foot and slapped my left hand on my left thigh.

Life can be good, despite war, loss, and pain. And it is still raining! The state-wide fires are going out.

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Ah, Rain, How I Love Thee

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 26, 2022

We’ve been having a lot of rain in New Mexico lately, after 70 days without any measurable rainfall. We’ve all been waiting for it. We love rain here because there’s so little of it. The state has been in drought conditions for years. the longest duration lasted 329 weeks beginning on May 1, 2001 and ending on August 14, 2007. The most intense period of drought occurred the week of January 19, 2021, affecting 54.27% of the state. After what seemed like an unending explosion of fires throughout the state, the rain is so very welcome. Of course, now the problem is monsoon rains that have brought flash floods and landslides. But that’s New Mexico. I love it here, although the fires have been getting worse with such extremely dry conditions, and now the fire areas (burn scars) don’t have the vegetation needed to prevent mudslides in such heavy rains.

But the rain, predicted to last through June 21, is still coming. It’s Sunday now, June 29. The rain has been falling for hours, off and on. I enjoy the light rain pattering on the roof, and I love the heavy pounding of rain during cloudbursts. It’s all good here. When I went for a short walk a while ago, after one of the little rainstorms, I found a large clump of snails on the sidewalk. There were all mostly out of their shells sliding all over each other. I saw a couple strays nearby, but it seemed that about six to eight snails were having an orgy. Imagine that – a snail orgy.

But I also noticed that the rain sounds so different while I paused under the huge Mulberry tree outside my front door. It had a strange resonance. Usually, people say, “The rained drummed on the roof,” but this sound was so unlike that. No drumming. Repetitive, yes. But also extremely pleasant, reminding me of an orchestra of wind instruments. Imagine that: strings played by the rain, for the pleasure of the snails.

Well, I put a movie on tonight while the rain played its tune. I had a copy of The Leisure Seeker on my shelf since last year, and finally popped it in the player tonight. I bought it because it stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, two consummate actors. And, you say? Yes, I liked it. Comedy and tragedy. So very well done. I say comedy, because, in the short interview with the actors after the movie ended, Sutherland called it a comedy with a tragic ending. But it’s not any kind of laugh-out-loud comedy. The comedy fell out more like British comedy, funny, as in strange, with unpredictable actions and words.

In actuality, Sutherland’s character has advanced Alzheimer’s, and Mirren’s character is gravely ill, but they spontaneously take a road trip in an old, oil-burning, well-used RV. The movie seemed more like a slice-of-life adventure, with it’s real-life ups and downs, just as life had been for this plucky couple. The denouement of their lives plays out throughout the movie until the movie itself reaches its climax.

Throughout, we experience the inexplicable devastation of someone’s mind as Alzheimer’s disease takes its slow toll on memory and quality of life. Yet, these two people have a chance to share their love and laughs, and even painful memories, as the unexpected surprises even them.

Through it all, I could see myself in the characters, as I often do when reading books or watching movies. I feel the deterioration of my body and brain all the time, and it is already far more than just being easily distracted, or having the body run down slowly. My heart is not well, and it was very noticeable in the aftermath of an extremely painful and traumatizing tooth extraction recently. As the pain continued, unabated for days and nights on end, my heart struggled. I felt it leaping and struggling to keep up. There was pain. And, the antibiotic I took caused severe stomach pain with constipation, and it added to the malaise generated by the pain in my entire jaw. My eyes are rapidly deteriorating now, as opposed to the barely perceptible changes over the last 40 years. My right hand and shoulder move randomly, sometimes spasmodically. My driving is becoming erratic. Working on a movie set for 13 hours is thoroughly exhausting, and much more difficult to recover from than it was just a few years ago. Driving home late, through the very dark section of interstate highway between Santa Fe and Albuquerque has become nerve-wracking and scary.

As I was writing this, I realized that today is Sunday, and I had purchased a ticket to Chatter Sunday, and forgotten to go again. I so enjoy the music and the poetry. Nothing kept me from going. I knew I was going as recently as last night, but it slipped my mind again. Well, c’est la vie, as the French say. Fuck it, I say. Except, it is simply late, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I hadn’t noticed it was even past midnight. I will probably go to Chatter Sunday after all later on today. It’s still Sunday.

I will continue on, abandoned as I am in life. I have my motorcycle to ride, and buddies to ride with. I have my acting classes to memorize things for. I’m creating a storyboard for a class commercial project that I will add to my clips. I will also create both a sad and a funny monologue for the same reason. I will be part of a movie the whole class will create. It’s also for my clips and resume. I keep going. One day I will run down. I will be no more. But not yet.

Posted in 2020s, acting, Life, love, movies, My Life, Random Thoughts | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

A Play, An Old Haunt, & Restlessness

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 24, 2022

I am feeling better than I have for the last month or so. Too much about that to rehash it again. Today I got Covid tested because I’m working on a movie set tomorrow. Of course, they’re still shooting, so I don’t have a call time yet. At least it’s only an hour away. I’ll probably end up driving home in the dark from Santa Fe at the start of the weekend – not my favorite time to be on I-25. Long hills, up aaaand down, and curves that I can’t see coming. Anyway, I can use the extra bucks, even though New Mexico taxes those checks, I still owe a lot of money to the State come tax time. Perhaps it will be better next year now that New Mexico has decided not to tax Social Security income anymore. Regardless, I do enjoy being on sets.

Tonight I went to a play, yes, a play – plays have been shut down since Covid began here, but they’re coming back. A classmate from my movie acting class invited me to see it. It’s called Keely and Du. She is Du. It’s not the sort of thing I’d likely have gone to see if she wasn’t in it, because the topic is abortion, but the play is not about that so much. It is about the interaction between a woman who was raped and goes to a clinic to get a safe, legal abortion. On the way, however, she is kidnapped by a fanatical underground Right-To-Life group who plan to change her mind while they imprison her and feed her propaganda leaflets. It’s clear that the group puts the life and rights of the unborn above the rights of the mother, but they take care of her invalid father while she is imprisoned.

All that aside, the play is about the two women; Keely, who was violently raped by her ex-husband while he beat her head against the floor. She hates him, and cannot bear to have his child inside her. Du is her nurse, who stays with her in the cellar prison. Du, perhaps because she lost her infant daughter after three heart operations, is fanatically against abortion for any reason. She is not as insufferable as the Christian doctor who leads the group, but she never gives up on saving the baby, and comes to realize that Keely needs her help. The play is about their interaction. Both actors were incredible. I do not know the woman who played Keely, but Ramona, who played Du, is my classmate. She was incredible! Applause, applause, applause.

The play was written by Jane Martin (pseudonym) and published in 1993. No one knows the playwright’s real name. With the state of our country, divided as it is over this subject, I can understand why she keeps her real name secret. The play is very powerful, but it was made into a movie in 2018 in case you cannot see the play. It is worth seeing, no matter which camp you fall into. I think the play, based on what I saw tonight, is a better vehicle for this story.

So, afterward, I decided to stop on the way home. The Frontier Restaurant is an iconic place in Albuquerque.

The sweet, warm, iced cinnamon rolls there are amazing! Try with melted butter.

The place opened in 1971, right on Route 66. I first started going there in 1977 while I worked for the University of New Mexico, which sprawls across the street from Frontier. Forty-five years ago was the first time I went to this place! The food is always good, even though it’s a bit on the fast-food side. I can and did get a freshly prepared Carne Adovada burrito in minutes. The New Mexico food is great, and the chile is spicy, but there are lots of food options, They have those automated drink machines now, the ones that are popping up all over, and there are 200 choices. I got a regular ginger ale, although I could have added any of five flavors to it. I prefer ginger beer, but they didn’t have that.

I ate in because watching the people come and go there, especially at night, is always fascinating. There are lots of young college students, of course, but also street people, theater people, families, people literally covered in tattoos, and those with wild piercings, and/or almost fluorescent hair. You see every kind of person in there. Most of the time, everything is cool. But, sometimes there are crazy people out late at night, sometimes doped up, drunk, or looking for trouble, so now there is an armed security guard always present. That’s sad.

It was a joy to visit the Frontier again. I’m not often in the University area, but when I am I stop in. What’s sad is that I have been doing so for forty-five years. I think I need to get out of town. I need to just take off again, and see where I end up. That’s how I ended up in Albuquerque in the first place. Jobs, union, and family kept me here, stable and comfortable. Increasingly, I think it’s time to move on. I don’t have a destination in mind, but forty-five years in one place is an awfully long time. I’m retired, and I don’t own a house. I’ve no family here. There are people I know, mountains to climb, movies to audition for, and really, there is plenty to do here. I’ve no reason to leave, but conversely, no reason not to. When I crisscrossed the country those many years ago, I met plenty of people on the road. You form quick friendships if you’re open to it. You get to know people quickly. You don’t watch much TV, or see plays, or watch movies. You just live day to day. I had that once upon a time.

I could go somewhere, stay for a bit, and then move on, again, and again, and again until I die. Or perhaps, find something that really excites me, gives me purpose or an emotional connection. But, I think I’ve gone past working for carnivals or odd jobs, riding my bicycle around the country with just the clothes on my back, or having casual sex with strangers while we seek elusive connection. I’m not connected to anyone here, so I want more than that anyway.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BY A WORDPRESS ARTIST/AUTHOR

I’m just rambling tonight. My mind is clear, I’ve no pain. I’ve given up coffee and booze. I like writing, but I’m not very consistent about it. I may not make it as an actor. I could write a screenplay. I’ve seen a lot and done a lot, but the exciting things were in my youth. I wish I could travel to other planets. It’s always been my dream to travel to space, to go out there. Explore. Star Trek echoed my dream, but it never came to pass. I should run for President.

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This Moment in Time

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 22, 2022

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyám, Persian polymath: mathematician, astronomer, historian, philosopher, and poet.

A little while ago, I sent the quote above to my dearest Maya as she left town on the next adventure in her life. I sent it with mixed emotions. I was happy for her that she was taking charge of her life, not content to stay in bad jobs and lose her spirit. She truly is an amazing person: curious, full of life, energy, determination, and love for others. But, something was sadly missing from her life, and she’s off to find it, or at least search for it, because, sometimes, that is the best that we all can do.

Despite all that, it was miserably sad for me to feel her leave. It still causes my eyes to water just to say that. It was terrible at first: days of tears soaking into my beard, depression, heartache, and a sense of loss that I could not imagine ever recovering from. I am, of course, happy she was in my life, however peripherally at times, and gloriously when we worked together making and selling wine or going to wine tastings together, sometimes blind-tasting wines. It was fun to see how much we had learned, or still didn’t know about wines. It was fun to celebrate our birthdays and celebrate holidays together.

And that’s over. It hurts to realize that.

Then I found that intense physical pain could eclipse such mental and emotional anguish. The pain was so awful from the beating I took to my jaw and head to have an old molar tooth removed, through extensive pushing, pulling, and hammering away at the tooth, breaking it into little pieces. I had never experienced such pain after any medical procedure or accident. It was only days, but they were days of pain that I could not believe possible to endure. Moments when I felt I’d rather die than go on having pain that overwhelming consumed me, unrelentingly, pain not even dulled by opiates. And yet… And yet, here I am. I survived.

There is still pain in being physically separated from Maya. There is still soreness in my jaw.

One thing I learned from the tooth extraction, on top of Maya’s departure – besides being something of a wimp when it comes to constant, unforgiving pain – is that it does end. The screaming in pain, the despair, the crying – all of those things have ended, but are not forgotten.

It feels trite to say so, but really, it’s another day. I survived what seemed unsurvivable. I’m here now.

This moment is my life, not yesterdays and yesterdays. It appears I can survive anything. Like Maya, I don’t want to just go on living, just to exist. I want more, and I keep trying for a more fulfilling life, one with real joy in it. I haven’t given up. It appears to be that I must exist moment to moment, and take joy in that I can still look for joy, for something or someone in my life. If I can’t have Maya by my side while I search, at least I can take comfort that she is on a similar path, even though we may never cross paths again.

Posted in Life, love, Maya, medical, My Life | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Visit to My Dentist to Address Pain Goes Awry

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 17, 2022

Pain. There is nothing like physical pain to shock oneself out of emotional pain, such as the loss of someone you love, even if they’ve just moved far away.

This pain, though, I wouldn’t have asked for. There are worse things, but when you experience a pain that is unlike any other, pain that doesn’t respond to drugs, that continues unrelenting at the same unbearable level for days on end – you want it to end by any means necessary. Even death seems preferable.

It all started, in my youth, with a loose tooth. I had lost all of my primary teeth – the ones we all call baby teeth – except for one. I had never given it any thought. For all I could remember, all of those baby teeth were gone. But that one tooth felt loose one day. A dentist confirmed that it was indeed a primary tooth, which is what medical professionals call them. It wasn’t coming out, it was firmly in the gum. I had it capped on the advice of the dentist, in order to stabilize it. Years later, I had to repeat that process. Finally, on seeing a dentist for an unrelated problem, I mentioned the loose tooth. It was a molar, and one root had dissolved. She suggested that I have the tooth pulled, and replace it with a bridge. Big mistake.

I understood that the bridge would be anchored to the adjacent teeth, and would cover the gap, looking like a real tooth. I said OK. The removal of the baby tooth took a lot of work. The dentist repositioned herself several times trying to get it out. She pulled and pulled, but it was very firmly in there. Finally she pulled it out – all in one piece – and it had brought quite a bit of flesh with it. Painful, but not overwhelmingly so. Once it had healed, she started preparing me for the bridge. To do so, and I hadn’t understood this, she had to grind down the healthy tooth on either side as if for a crown. Because, well, because the teeth would be the supports for the bridge over the gap, and had to be one integral piece. So, it was two crowns connected together – creating a bridge over a gap.

What had worried me at the time was what would happen if even one of those two teeth were to be attacked by decay. So, recently – four days ago – I found out. The bridge had to be removed. Previously, the posterior molar had one root removed by a dentist – specialist – who convinced me that the root was interfering with the regeneration of a deep pocket in my gum adjacent to it. Why the pocket had formed, I have no idea, but it trapped a lot of food and took a lot of effort to clean out. So, in a bizarre procedure, he went into my gum horizontally, and slowly sawed the one root off. The pocket never leveled out, and it took persistent flossing to clean food particles out, but, it also didn’t get worse. I was very thorough.

Suddenly, last week, I had pain, a pain that appeared to come from that bridge. My current dentist removed the bridge, exposing decay in that same posterior tooth that had one root sawed off. I wanted him to do a root canal to save the tooth. I hate to lose any tooth. He said that he didn’t want to do that. If I wanted to recreate the bridge, it wouldn’t have sufficient strength with one root. However, it had lasted at least 35 years before. In a prior visit, he had recommended pulling the tooth. He also said that a tooth implant there would cost $2500. I would need two. I survive on a small pension, supplemented with social security. I don’t have an extra $5000 just laying around. I let him remove the tooth anyway, but I shouldn’t have.

It turned out, AGAIN, that the tooth wasn’t going to go anywhere. It was firmly rooted in the underlying bone or adjacent bone, and he spent over an hour getting it out. I thought he could just pull it out, but he couldn’t get a good grip on it, probably because of the mandibular tori I have alongside my teeth. These tori are bony growths. In me, they resemble a second interior row of teeth below the gumline, but alongside my normal teeth. It is difficult to clean the interior of my teeth because of this thing, which is all of one piece really, so it feels odd to use the plural form of a torus.

NOT my mouth, but similar

During the procedure to remove that poor abused tooth, he was not just pulling, he was pushing, pushing down so hard I had to tighten my jaw muscles to keep my head straight. He was using all of his strength, and I felt like I was in a tremendous fistfight. He kept pushing and pulling at the tooth until he broke it into many small pieces. It was exhausting and traumatic in a way that anesthesia doesn’t touch. He even stopped to give me more shots that felt like they went into my tongue and lip.

Even now, my lip is swollen and looks bruised, probably because he used it as a place to support his hand while digging away at the tooth. When I went home, due to all the anesthesia, I felt OK. Before I had gone to see the dentist I had been in intermittent pain that had finally become constant. I had used a mixture of ibuprofen and acetaminophen that a doctor had once recommended for persistent pain. It had become less effective until I was using more and more. I figured that the removal of the offending tooth would relieve some of the pain and pressure, so the ibuprofen/acetaminophen cocktail would be enough.

I wouldn’t be writing this if it had been enough, even enough to at least dull the edge of the pain. In fact, IT HAD NO EFFECT AT ALL. I was miserable all night. I slept only fitfully, waking up and taking even more pills that first night. The following morning I called to see about getting something for the pain. The dentist prescribed acetaminophen/codeine pills. OK, I thought, but I used plenty of codeine in cough syrups when I was younger, and I had my doubts it could mitigate pain like I was having. My pain was epic: continuous, intense beyond any injury I’d ever suffered – a broken bone, a ruptured appendix with sepsis, bad sprains, two hernia repairs, and a head injury – all rolled into one, and more.

I paced, I screamed, and I was moved to tears by this pain. I had never been so affected in my entire life. I felt like I’d be better off dead. I would have done anything to stop this pain. I tried the codeine. IT HAD NO EFFECT. The directions said to take one pill every six hours. I took one. Two hours later, as there was no lessening of the pain, I took another. Two hours later I took two pills and went to bed. I couldn’t sleep. The pain was overwhelming. I was up all night taking pills two at a time. I slept in short bursts. At 4:30 am, racked by pain, I took four of the codeine pills at once. After some frantic pacing, yelling, and exhaustion, I felt a slight dulling of the pain.

I couldn’t sleep. The dentist’s office wouldn’t open until 7:30 am. I got through it because of the four codeine pills, but I knew I couldn’t do any more of that. Besides, I only had five of the fifteen pills left. At 7:00 am, I stretched out on the bed to rest. I slept for an hour, so then I rushed over to the dentist to present my case for a stronger medication. As a drop-in patient, I had to wait for scheduled patients, but I didn’t have to pace for long. Previously that morning, I had noticed that my jaw and lower lip were swollen. My dentist was not in that day, but I spoke with the dentist of the day, who ordered another x-ray. He saw nothing of concern. I asked for and got an antibiotic (amoxicillin) and a stronger drug (hydrocodone-acetaminophen). I took the antibiotic immediately. I held off on the new opioid since I still had plenty of the previous opioid in my system. Overdosing on opioids was not an option I wanted to experience. Later, as the codeine wore off, I took a hydrocodone pill. After some time had passed, as I was still in pain, I took a couple more ibuprofen liquid capsules. Less than half an hour later, the pain stopped. I was shocked, but I think it was the combination of the two opioids in my system and the antiinflammatory pills. I still had some soreness in my jaw, but that mind-numbing pain was gone.

Finally satisfied that I had something that worked on the pain. I dismissed the codeine as ineffective and just used the new opioid. My cheek and lip are still swollen, and there is a small painful nodule in my gum below the space where my tooth had been, so, as a precaution, I continue to take the antibiotic, even though I haven’t experienced any fever. I am scheduled to see my dentist again in a week. I think he dislocated my jaw because I felt something slip when I stretched my mouth. Part of me wants to punch HIM in the jaw.


A RADIOGRAM TAKEN OF MY TEETH TWO YEARS AGO

You can see the former bridge (lower jaw) on the right side of this picture in bright white. The left tooth remains with the bridge cut clean there, but the underlying metal is now exposed on the posterior side. I’ll probably need a new crown on it at some point. I’m not removing any teeth ever again.

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She’s Gone Now

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on June 1, 2022

MAYA self-portrait

She is out of state now, riding with her dad and her small pile of simple possessions. She is going to try driving a little on the straight sections of Interstate 40. I hope her dad lets her. She misses that bit of independence. The lack of peripheral vision in her left eye is due to the operation to remove a cancerous growth in her brain. It’s all that remains of her illness and treatments. Her doctor said she no longer needed testing, and she didn’t need to see him anymore. She says it’s the best breakup she’s ever had. That was years ago. She always runs a lot and stays healthy. Her body looks extremely fit at 38 years old, although she has found a few grey hairs.

Trying to avoid obsessing about her departure, I read a book called The Death House, by Sarah Pinborough, about a place in a dystopian future where the British take children with defective genes who are going to die horrible deaths. It is a great story of resilience in the face of tragedy and the power of the human spirit. I enjoyed it, but it is a tragedy, and the ending was a bit more than I could take today.

My thoughts just keep going to Maya. Sometimes that’s OK. She’s on her way to a new life and her future is unknown. I am happy for her. Her happiness has always meant a lot to me. I love her. But then this malaise (anxiety?) comes upon me, and I don’t know how I will survive. Really. That’s not hyperbole. Tears appear on my cheeks from time to time. I’m restless, pacing, and unable to eat right now, although I ate well yesterday. Emotions make my throat constrict. It’s so bad now that I can hardly get a bite of food down. It all comes and goes. Writing this is painful, but what else am I to do? I drank two beers talking with my neighbor last night, but it didn’t help. I wrote a poem a few days ago about Maya and her imminent departure. I sent it to a poet I know, but there’s been no reply yet. It’s painful to read now. It hurts so bad. All those years I’ve known her, 30 wonderful years of having Maya in my life. The joy I feel every day that she survived brain cancer, that she is alive and healthy, is overshadowed by my selfish despair at the lack of her presence in town, my inability to see her, have lunch with her, go to dinner with her, or enjoy a fine wine tasting at the Slate Street restaurant. It’s all just memories now. I find it hard to take. She kept me stable, alive, and happy. I have no family here, no close friends. I didn’t need anyone with Maya around.

Now I’m lost. More alone than I was when she was here and often unavailable. More alone than I’ve ever felt. The tears are rolling down my cheeks again. It’s happened in the past. It’s not the first time I’ve been through this: the first lover I lived with who left me suddenly for another after I’d moved here to start a life with her, the two marriages over a combined twenty-one years that ended in divorce, the death of my father, the dread that hit me when Maya was first diagnosed with a brain tumor, the fear that she would end her existence in this world.

It feels like all of that rolled into one terrible waking nightmare. I can’t wake up from this. I try reading. I signed up for a hiking trip to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. I lost my Shadow motorcycle a while back to a mechanical failure that I caused accidentally. I finally found one to replace it. Actually, I hadn’t liked it as much as my old Honda Magna with its four cylinders, four carburetors, and four exhaust pipes. That one was stolen from me two years ago. I replaced it with that Honda Shadow Phantom that I broke. I have not been able to ride with my biking buddies, and they have been riding a lot lately. I couldn’t find a bike here in town – one has been “on the way” since late April with no sign of it yet. Honda is having problems with inventory and is experiencing shipping delays, and their model offerings are slim. I can’t afford a Harley, even a used one, and the local dealership is corrupt with price gouging and high-pressure salesmen who kept saying: “But it’s a Harley,” while they try to get me to sign up for a used bike at new bike prices, said prices more than twice the MSRP, and at an 8.99% finance rate instead of the 3.99% that the Harley-Davison company itself has been offering on used bikes.

I looked around through Cycle Trader and similar places. Eventually, I found a bike I like, with good power, and good looks, and only a year old. Kawasaki – I never in my life thought I’d ride a Kawasaki. But almost new? A four-stroke? 903cc? Belt drive? High tension steel? 5 speed? With large, hard case, locking bags, a highway bar, and dual backrests with a luggage rack? It’s in Tucson, Arizona. I sent the money, and am hiring a man to haul it here. I don’t have a truck, and can’t hook a trailer to my car, and it’s a thirteen-hour round trip at best. I could have taken a bus there, maybe even a cheap flight, but then I’d have been renting a truck and trailer to haul it all that way (gas prices are too high for that to be economical), or riding a bike I don’t know 450 miles in the desert heat. Hell, I’d still need to have it registered and licensed in New Mexico and transfer my insurance over. Better to get it here first.

So, yeah, I’ve been looking forward to getting it. Now, however, that happiness is eclipsed by my sorrow at Maya’s departure. Nothing matters much. My life here feels suddenly empty without Maya here. Where’s here? Why am I here? What does it all matter anymore? It’s hard not to think about Maya. It’s hard when I do think of her. I’ve been stupid to have invested so much emotion around her. She means so much to me. Her happiness means more, so I can’t even tell her these things. It’s killing me.

I know the new bike will keep me entertained. I don’t care at the moment. I’d give it up in a heartbeat to have Maya back here. But, there is nothing I can do. Nothing. I will continue to love her. But I feel so empty, so drained of life, with no clear way forward. It’s much the way she feels herself, but she took action. She moved away. 940 miles away. Not insurmountable. But I’m part of the past she’s leaving behind. Her last message said to take care of myself. That’s it? Take care? How? Why? She knows I love her. She said she loves me too. It hurt so much for me to write those words. My throat tightened up. Tears in my eyes. I’ve been deluding myself for years. 30 years we’ve known each other. Now I’m just someone that she used to know. She always says “Cancer Sucks.” Well, this sucks too.

That’s all I can write now. Enough of this pity party. Enough wallowing in despair and regret.

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Maya Leaves Today

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 31, 2022

I cry every time I think of that… .

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She’s Almost Gone. Good-byes Suck.

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on May 29, 2022

My chest feels tight. I woke up around 4:00 am. There was no way I could sleep. I tried to hold it together yesterday, but parting from someone you love is always hard. Maya has been such a joy in my life for thirty years. I knew her first as the child of my lover, who I married after we’d known each other for four years, but we divorced 10 years after that. Maya was so full of life and spirited. I worked with her on her spelling while her mom worked one of her jobs. Her mom had been divorced from Maya’s dad for about as long as Maya had been alive. She and her brother spent time with their dad on Thursday nights and on alternate weekends., so at first I didn’t see much of them, but over time I spent more and more time at their house until I came to live with them after marrying their mom.

Maya and her brother Noah were always fun. While their mom was out, they’d entertain themselves as siblings do, running around the house, chasing each other, playing, and enjoying the absence of parental control. Maya’s spelling improved over time, and perhaps it created a bond between us. I saw her most often, as her brother was often at a neighbor’s house or at school playing basketball. practicing, practicing, practicing. He had also played soccer. He seemed to live for those games. Maya herself played basketball in grade school. I went to their official games. Noah was captain of his basketball team and played smart games, helping to drive his team to a state championship.

Maya, I could see, was more of a runner. As the point guard, she ran from one end of the court and back so fast that I was astounded by her speed and agility. When she reached high school she went out for track. I had never been interested in sports, but between those two, I watched years of soccer and basketball games. With my job, it was hard to get to Maya’s track events, but her mom took photos once in a while.

From that time on Maya ran, eventually running long distances. She ran marathons and traveled to different events around the country. It is still a passion of hers. She organizes her oldest friends to run relays in the Duke City Marathon in Albuquerque. It’s more than a sport for her; she uses it to relieve stress and for time to think.

It’s been thirty years since I’ve known Maya. She’s a tough woman. Cancer tried to take her down shortly after her 21st birthday, but she fought back. With the help of modern medical techniques and the support of friends and family, she won her battle with brain cancer.

It was a difficult time for her, and the rest of us. The day-long operation, the chemo, the radiation, the drugs that put her in a brain fog. And the scare later on when it appeared to have returned. It turned out it was simply scar tissue from the radiation treatments and was removed. She is cancer-free.

Maya was able to finish college. She’s had several jobs, and while working, continued her education, earning a Master’s Degree. But she’s reached a point in her life where she must move on. She’s cleaned out her house. It’s for sale. She disposed of almost everything she owned. She’s taking a couple suitcases, some bags of clothes, and not much else. She has a job waiting for her in California, but it’s not the main reason she’s going there. She needs a change. Although she has traveled to many countries, she is restless now. It’s always been her plan to live the rest of her life fully, but her jobs were unfulfilling, and sometimes spirit-crushing. She needs more. She’s not quite sure what, but first of all, she has to leave here. I had noticed this about her last year, as she seemed to be distancing herself, already moving on in her mind. I felt it was just me she was moving on from, and I took that hard, but it was more than that. She will soon be gone from here. I have never loved anyone more than Maya.

So, since the two of us had worked part-time for a winery for close to eight years, I took her to the New Mexico Wine Festival here in Albuquerque yesterday, and we tried to have fun. It was an extremely overcrowded event, with an hour and a half wait to get in, and long lines just to get a few quick tastes and a glass of wine each. Afterward, her dad and stepmother had a gettogether at their house, we ate a little and drank some champagne. I brought a bottle of liquor made from those tiny little grapes called black currants to blend with the champagne. The liquor is called Creme de Cassis. It is very sweet. Mixed with champagne, it is a French cocktail called Kir Royal. A tablespoon per glass of champagne is plenty. Tasty. I brought a bottle of dry French champagne, because, well, it’s a French drink.

It was very hard for me to leave her dad’s house. Maya and her dad had things to plan as he is driving her to California two days from now. Her stepmom prepared a bed for her, so it was time for me to go. Since Maya’s house is now empty, she stayed at her dad’s house last night and will be there tomorrow night as well. Everything Maya is taking will fit in her dad’s vehicle. I don’t know if I will ever see her again. I couldn’t say goodbye. We had one last shared look into each other’s eyes.


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Photography from Arroyo del Tajo, New Mexico

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on April 7, 2022

These are from a slot canyon in a ravine called Arroyo del Tajo, just southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, along the Rio Grande. The first five are my favorites., but more follow. Click on each to enlarge.

More photos:

An interesting thing happened on this hike. I met a fascinating woman. She is quite beautiful and close to my own age at 61. Her American Indian heritage graced her with dark hair that she has not had to dye at all. She is very intelligent and we shared our life stories on the hike. She is a retired teacher from Texas but has been teaching in New Mexico. She will be leaving later this year to teach in a remote area of Alaska. She said she would send me stories from there. We appear to have much in common. She asked me to send her the photos I took, so I gave her my card with my contact information. She also took some photos I’d like to see. She was going to contact me with her information. I know some women don’t like to give that away to strangers they’ve just met, so that seemed best. I waited for days to post any photos to the meetup hiking site but never heard from her again. When I was doing that, I noticed that she had removed herself from the hiking group. I thought: “What did I say or do?” It was so disappointing. I so much wanted to stay in touch with her at the very least, and I believed we had connected. I looked forward to perhaps seeing her again. I felt so happy to have met someone like her. I have not dated in years because no one I’ve met interested me enough. This woman, yes, she interested me enough to make changes to my life. That’s incredible to me. Anyway, here are a few photos, aside from the ones above, that I won’t be able to send her. Sigh. But these ones of her were really for me.

Posted in 2020s, hiking, My Life, photography | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ding, Dong, the Bike is Dead – an Update

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on April 1, 2022

I had just topped off the oil. After checking the level several times, I had finally reached the top level mark on the dipstick. On this bike, unlike with my previous bike I rode for nineteen years, the oil cap and dipstick are all in one on the Phantom (an all-black Honda Shadow). I still had the dipstick/cap in my hand as an old woman with a little curious dog stopped. The dog was on a leash but the old biddy had let it run right through my tools and the open oil container. I had then placed the still-dripping dipstick in the oil reservoir hole in order to grab the oil bottle. The old lady nattered on a bit, excusing her dog’s behavior as “He likes motorcycles for some reason,” and kept on about the precious little dog.

The title is a play on the similar lilting song from the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. And I certainly wish I was a wizard. In my March 9, 2022 post, I wrote of the damage inflicted on my motorcycle by my own damn self. Not wrecked, and I didn’t drop it. No, I rendered my bike inoperative while topping off the oil! Sometimes I even amaze myself with my level of stupidity. I had already topped off the radiator (liquid-cooled motorcycle engines are common now – built of cast aluminum, the engines used to overheat while idling, damaging the engine block over time). Then I topped off the oil. (insert ominous music here).

When she left, I tried to go back to what I was doing. I’m easily distracted. I remembered that I was about to turn the bike on to warm up and circulate the oil before checking the level again. I forgot to screw the dipstick cap back in. Long story short, I ended up having to get the bike towed to a motorcycle repair shop I used before. The owner thought, based on the noise, that the dipstick had damaged teeth on the gears directly below it – a small piece was missing from the end of the dipstick. He guessed that it would be a fairly simple repair, although replacing the gears wasn’t going to be cheap. I gave him $300 as a down payment. When he was able to inspect it, he drained the oil, and found the missing piece from the dipstick. Not only that, but the gears were undamaged. I was optimistic for about five seconds. Then came the bad news: using a microphone, he tracked down the racket the engine was making, since the gears were OK. It was the rear cylinder. A very small piece of the dipstick got circulated with the oil right into the cylinder wall, I think. How it got past the oil pump and oil filter is a mystery to me.

So, again, to move this story along, the engine will require a near rebuild. The two-stroke motorcycle engine opens along a vertical seam, so the bike needs to be partially disassembled to remove the engine – it can’t be opened while in the bike. $2300, just to open and close the bike. Then, the repairs, parts and labor estimate jacked the repair over the insurance threshold for repair. IT IS TOTALED! Well, shit on a stick. Damn. Did you ever feel like taking a hammer to your head? I did.

A moment’s inattention. My easy distractibility. This is a 2014 bike I bought as a replacement for my stolen bike. It caught my attention because it had only 2662 miles on it when I bought it a year and a half ago. It now only has 5550 miles, and it’s essentially dead. I had been mad as hell at what I’d done, and didn’t initially even call my insurance company because I couldn’t imagine them fixing my stupid mistake. However, I finally had called them. A Progressive insurance agent went to the repair shop, examined the still new-looking bike, and got an estimate of the repairs. Insurance companies don’t authorize repair work on a vehicle if the amount is greater than around 65 to 75% of its value. They would rather give me a check for the value of the bike and the accessories I added to it. And that is what is going to happen. It’s a good amount. So, after gnashing my teeth, kicking myself in the ass, and considering hammer time, I will be OK. I won’t be out any of the money I spent on the bike, except for the $999 service warranty I bought, which, inexplicably, doesn’t apply to repairs such as this, and which I never even used, as I had only added 2900 miles to it.

Despite all the terrible tragedies in the world, war, shootings, pandemics, and such, I was devasted by this whole thing. Since I am retired, I don’t have a lot of extra money for expenses like this. I enjoy motorcycle riding. I’d rather go anywhere on a bike – a long ride or short errands – than drive a car. I thought I’d never be able to afford another bike. I even dusted off my old bicycle and pumped up the tires so I could use that. I’ll be riding that for a while until I find a decent motorcycle. I don’t think I’ll find another one with only 2600 miles on it, but I can’t complain. I’ll just have to look. Of course, I could just ride my bicycle. I used to commute 20 miles a day, then rode it around the country and parts of Canada when I was young, and still commuted after settling in Albuquerque, until I bought a used motorcycle. Since then, I commuted to and from work on the motorcycle every day of the year until I retired. It became a part of me. It had made commuting fun. On longer trips, at speed, I often felt like I was flying. The engine was not loud, neither on my old bike that was stolen, nor the newer one I just destroyed. I could only hear the wind flowing past my ears. I would certainly miss that if I never rode again.

Posted in 2020s, Bicycling, motorcycles, My Life, rants | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

A Night of Light Rain

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on March 21, 2022

I am watching a recent (2021) version of Gawain and the Green Knight, as presented in CD format to play on my television screen. Restless, I get up about 3/4 of the way through, pause it and wander. The assemblage of houses, one of which I live in, has a sidewalk that mostly winds its way all around, with interweaving trails and paths to each of the eighty-three houses. The falling rain is barely noticeable. It is very quiet, quiet enough to hear the soft patter of the droplets, and nothing else. The glow from the few lights here is soft in the rain. I feel like I live in Hobbiton, in the Shire of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

It is a night for brooding. It is a dark and calm night. The rain continues. I see no one else out. I like that. Although it is not brooding as such, my thoughts do wander, inspired by the Green Knight and Gawain’s quest to honor his pledge to the Green Knight, or to simply find himself and what his honor is and perhaps become a knight himself. I wandered this land called the United States of the continent of North America when I was younger. It is a long story to tell, yet I would rather make this short so that I can brew some tea, sit back and listen to the rain fall all around me. It is nice to be snug and warm in my little hobbit-hole, my very own smial, or burrow. Perhaps I had enough of adventuring when I was young. Perhaps not. The thought occurred to me as I walked to just keep walking, and see where I end up. That is, after all, how I came to live here now.

But tonight, I was thinking about death, as there is much in Gawain’s tale of the Green Knight. I often think about death. I do not seek it, and I do not fear it. It just is. Like life, it just is. I don’t think it has much meaning. We each can make of it what we will, but that doesn’t mean that it is what life means. We exist, we dream, we eat, we procreate, we work, we wonder about all of it sometimes, and we believe that either we know what it is all about, or that we know nothing.

So much to do. I set myself tasks and dream about where they will lead me. Will acting lead me to fame, honor, or disappointment? Will writing a script for the big screen bring me recognition? Often, the dreams are far better than the reality, yet the reality is where we live every day. What of love? Gawain is asked about that, and although he says the charm he carries is about love, it seems not important to him. Romantic love was a thing with the stories of knights, always riding into battle with a token from their love. Instead of love here and now, they wandered, quested, battled, and bled. Sometimes they went home. Did they return to their loves? or find love while traveling? And what of the ones who died? Were their adventures worth it?

I know I chose to live here for love. Or sex. It was confusing back then. And it didn’t last. I don’t search for love anymore. Perhaps that’s why I have thoughts of returning to the roads that meander, that lead somewhere else, or nowhere at all. But, no, all the roads are within me I can travel them any time. Or not.

And, with that, I think it’s time for tea, and to see what Gawain is up to. The rain had stopped, but it starts up again now. Perhaps it was waiting for me to finish. I….

Posted in 2020s, Dreams, Life, love, My Life, rambling | Leave a Comment »

Such Calm in the Not-time Between 2 and 3

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on March 13, 2022

Two movies I’ve watched between yesterday and today have had a strange effect on me. In one hour we turn our clocks ahead. But it’s two hours from now. It’s all a fiction, this way we keep track of time. But, I’m a romantic. I feel like I’m writing in between the magical time that doesn’t exist, when it’s 2:00 am March 13, 2022, and when the digital clocks say it is actually 3:00 am on March 13, 2022. There’s a strange feeling in me. Not of death, but my fantasy of release.

But, enough of that. According to Netflix, I’ve rented 876 movies since January of 2008. That doesn’t count the broadcast movies I’ve watched, the ones I watched in movie theaters, the ones I’ve bought, or the many shorts and features I watched in order to rate and review movies for the Santa Fe Film Fest or the independent short movies the people I know have made. It’s, all of it, a lot of movies. I don’t watch much TV. Perhaps that’s why I work so hard towards being an actor: for the movies – to be in a feature-length movie where I am one of those collections of pixels on a screen that move and talk and bare their emotions for all to see. All of my auditions collected together would equal a – pretty boring – movie series. Some really bad acting, and some heartfelt moments from days or weeks of work for each audition.

Some day, perhaps.

It’s strange to think that it’s all that my life is now. My decades of seeking love and romance led to twenty-one years of marriage, split between two women. A brief sexual dalliance since then that lasted almost two years, but I no longer seek anything. I remember, I dream, I satisfy myself with unrequited romances – my specialty.

One such lasted 12 years, long after such obsessions usually end. The two movies I watched brought that all together for me. One was Hector and the Search for Happiness. In it, a psychiatrist goes on a worldwide journey to find out what happiness is, and, really, to find out why he is unhappy. But, after interviewing people all over the world to sample what others think happiness is, and after some strange, some wonderful, some odd, and one really awful, near-death experience out of all those experiences, he does come to realize he does know what it is, and it’s up to him to go for it.

Such was my realization recently when I decided that I do really want to be happy, and what would make me happy goes beyond things, movies, acting, travel, food, drink, or sex. You all know what that is if you’ve watched one-tenth of the movies I’ve seen. Someone. Someone I enjoy spending time with. Someone I admire. Someone I desire. Someone whose very happiness brings me joy. I have indeed known someone like that for quite some time. However, that is a path I cannot travel, for reasons that are part me, part her, and part historical. Such is life. It became a long-lived and very unrequited love. I tell myself I will always love her, quite unselfishly, and we’ll always be friends, but even the friendship is all in my mind.

The other movie I watched was Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. A ghost ship centuries old with a brooding man who can’t die, who lives in a turmoil of regret, guilt, and unfulfilled longing, for a woman he lost, one he meets, and death. He can have none of those. But stranger things have happened and is it a movie. It ends in deaths and romance and love.

What was odd was how I felt. I was happy, in a bright and cheerful mood, the kind that makes me sing and hum old songs. It’s a rare mood for me. Just recently, I realized my unrequited longing for the woman I mentioned had to stop, no matter that I love her still. Our friendship was not deep and based on just a couple of things we had in common, but I’m certain she needs to move on from that. She sees me once in a while if I ask, but not always when I ask. She never asks. She never calls, texts, or leaves messages, except in response to mine, and not always then. She doesn’t have to say it, I’ve seen it many times – she needs to move on. And really, I realize I do too. I am comfortable with that. I am happy for her. I feel good about myself. I can plan again, go on dates, maybe romance someone. I’m ready. And there’s still time.

Posted in Life, love, madness, My Life, rambling, Random Thoughts, relationships | Leave a Comment »

Rants and Musings – Motorcycles, Health and Acting

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on March 9, 2022

There are so many things rambling around in my head. It’s hard to concentrate, and I only slept a few hours last night. I tried but woke up at 3:30 am. So, it’s time for my therapeutic writing, my stream of consciousness.

Yesterday I was preparing my motorcycle for a long ride today. It is a three-hour roundtrip to Mountainair. The 1923 hotel is unique, and the food is good. There is great scenery along the way. At one time in the early 1920s, before Hitler rose to power in Germany, a swastika was almost a universal symbol of life, the swirling arms indicative of the cyclical nature of life, and well-documented as having been used in Native American and Asian cultures. Native Americans in the U.S. Southwest say that it was not a major symbol. One Albuquerque high school used the symbol for their yearbook. The Kimo Theater in Albuquerque was built in the 1920s using swastikas as decoration, and they still adorn the inside walls. The nearby old Federal building has a similar motif. Of note, the Shaffer Hotel in Mountainair still incorporates the swastika. It was used as a symbol of divinity and spirituality. The last time I was there, this is the view of the front of the building:

People stare but it stares back

Hitler, who believed in numerology and astrology among other things, chose the symbol to give his new Reich some gravitas grounded in ancient history. It was not a good luck charm for him.

Here are some more photos of the inside of the Shaffer Hotel:

I have been to the area more recently than the photos I took then since the area also has the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, where you can visit the ruins of Spanish colonial rule: the Abó mission, Gran Quivira Pueblo, and the Quarai mission. I’ve taken too many photos of those over several trips to post them all now. The way the Natives were treated then, and later by the United States, is eerily prescient to the way Hitler’s “Third Reich” treated Jews, gypsies, and non-conformists, and in a way, the immoral, villainous treatment of American Indians makes the twisted use of their own symbol not seem oddly placed here.

So, back to the narrative flow. The reason I didn’t go on the ride is that I fucked up my Honda Shadow Phantom motorcycle. As of now, it is unrideable. I did not crash it. I bought it in 2020 after my 1997 Honda Magna was stolen, after 19 years of riding that wonderfully fast, smooth machine. I was only able to recoup $2,500 from the insurance company, for the bike and accessories. I put it down on the Phantom.

The 2014 Phantom.

I was seriously pissed off. I did it through stupidity. All I was doing was checking fluids, making sure it was good to go for the three-hour trip to Mountainair and back. Somehow, the little old ladies around here all made it point to bring their little dogs by as they walked them around this compound I live in. I had just topped off the oil when one of them interrupted me. I had been planning to turn the bike on for a bit to warm and circulate the oil so I could double-check the level. After speaking to them and keeping an eye on the anxious little dog trying to get at me, I forgot that I hadn’t tightened the oil dipstick. I had left it just sitting in the hole. As soon as the old biddy, and her little dog too, were gone, I fired the bike up. Holy mindfucking crap! The racket was incredible. The engine had vibrated the dipstick, which tipped to one side, and before I could reach the off switch, it bent the dipstick at a 90° angle and spit it out.

I still can’t believe I was so stupid. I looked at the dipstick and realized a small piece was missing. I used an extension magnet to fish around in the oil reservoir but only found a small piece. A thin length perhaps 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch was somewhere inside. Reasoning that perhaps it was chewed up into smaller pieces I stopped trying to find it. I tried straightening the dipstick rod and replacing it. I got it very straight, so I could barely feel where it had been bent. I had to see if the bike would run OK. It didn’t. The noise was still there. I cut the rod off just below the screwcap, replaced it, and tried again. Same thing – a god-awful racket. Things are bent and ruined in there. It is going to be damned expensive to have it taken apart to replace the damaged parts. I’m a moron. I just can’t believe I did that after riding for the last forty years or so. I took care of my bikes, worked on them myself when I could, and got expert help when I couldn’t. Perhaps my riding days are over. I only had that bike for a year and a half. It’s a 2014, but I bought it in September of 2020, with only 2,662 miles on it. I’d only gotten the odometer up to 5,550 miles since I last rode it. I am devastated again. The loss of the old bike was bad enough, especially after some pricey work I’d just had done, and the fact that it rode so smoothly and quietly, I was just getting used to this one. Crap. Fuck. Piss and moan.

To top it all off, my blood pressure recently shot up to a dangerous level, and my cholesterol, despite regular use of a statin drug, healthy eating, and regular exercise, is also higher than it was before I had a heart attack in 2013. I saw my doctor after a long wait and scheduled a stress echocardiogram to see what things look like in there, but on March 1st, they discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high, and canceled the test, even while I was standing on the treadmill, ready to go. The next available test date was to be March 28, and I will still go, but the cardiologist’s office called me this morning to tell me she won’t be available (for the originally scheduled March 29 follow-up visit) until May 9. I had asked for this test because plaque in a major heart artery had caused the artery to close off before, and I wanted to know how bad it was now. But I won’t know my status and what to do about it until May 9? In the meantime, I’m on a blood-pressure-lowering drug, and I have to take my blood pressure twice a day.

I’m no longer sure I’ll live to May. If the test itself was too dangerous for me, what about hiking in the mountains? Working out? How much can I do? I guess I’d better update my will, although the motorcycle repair or replacement may take what’s left of my savings. I sound like a “Debbie Downer”, but this is all depressing.

Well, one good thing, I should have an acting agent soon. An agent looked over my resume, learning, and experience, and is ready to have me audition for her. My acting coach recommended me, and she trusts him, representing several of his students already. I was really pumped about that, but a little less now. Well, all I can do is keep trying, keep auditioning, keep learning. It would be nice to have a good, dramatic role in a feature film before I die. I’ve been working on that for eight years. I feel I’m close. I have good acting chops, my memorization is good, and I will have an agent helping me find auditions for a feature film before the productions arrive. There are a lot of movies being shot here all the time, all over the state, but they usually already have their principal actors before they get here. I want to be one of those, even in a small role. It’s pretty much all I live for.

As a thank-you for reading this far, here are a few pictures from the Pueblo Missions National Monument:

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

Hey, Czar Putin

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 27, 2022

Mayor of southern Ukrainian town says Russians have taken control

From CNN’s Tim Lister in Kyiv and Olya Voinovich

Oleksandr Svidlo, the acting mayor of the town of Berdyansk on Ukraine’s southern coast, has said that Russian forces have entered and taken control of the town. Berdyansk, which has a small naval base, has a population of about 100,000.

Svidlo posted a message to the town’s residents on his Facebook page Sunday which said, “A few hours ago, you and I witnessed how heavy military equipment and armed soldiers entered the city and began advancing throughout our hometown. As soon as I learned about that, I tried to inform all the residents of the city so that you have the opportunity to hide in shelters.”

Svidlo continued: “Some time ago, armed soldiers entered the executive committee building and introduced themselves as soldiers of the Russian army, they informed us that all administrative buildings were under their control and that they were taking control of the executive committee building.” Svidlo said that officials were asked to continue working, “but under the control of armed men. I consider this proposal unacceptable, so we, as all members of the operational headquarters, left the building of the executive committee.”

Svidlo ended his post, saying, “Today Berdyansk was on the line of fire. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like, but I think tonight will be very, very hard.

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Steal Away Is an Incredible True Story About to Be Brought to Life

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 23, 2022

Steal Away is the true story of Ella Sheppard and the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir of young former slaves. It is based closely on Andrew Ward’s heroic chronicle: Dark Midnight When I Rise. As they seek the right to an education, for the right of everyone to seek an education, they become targets of rabid KKK terrorism against all such schools. Although they and their school are physically attacked with bullets and bombs, the choir respond with powerful, deeply-moving songs of faith and freedom. Steal Away follows the choir’s impressively shocking rise from the inhuman depths of slavery to the ballrooms and throne rooms of Europe as they conquer the world. But they must also conquer their own personal demons. It has been said that Dark Midnight When I Rise is one of the most breathtaking and timeless true stories ever told.

Although not yet in production, Steal Away is still auditioning actors and crew, processing auditions, and raising funds and awareness of this awesome production. I will do my best to help. I am one of the thousands applying for a role in this production.

Here’s a video by Steven Blake, Steal Away’s producer: About the movie.

The character that I have applied for is Milo Cravath. Cravath’s parents were abolitionists and part of the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of people, African American as well as white, offering shelter and aid to enslaved people from the South. It developed as a convergence of several different clandestine efforts. The exact dates of its existence are not known, but it operated from the late 18th century to the Civil War, at which point its efforts continued to undermine the Confederacy in a less-secretive fashion.

Erastus Milo Cravath was a hawkish, militant civil rights crusader, the fearsome Director of the American Missionary Association. Cravath’s lifelong war against Southern supremacists and their armies of terror has shaped him into a merciless war hawk that some liken to Genghis Khan. But though a legendary enemy of racial oppression, Cravath’s hard-charging, take-no-prisoners crusade cruelly enslaves the African-American choir touring for his cause, making Cravath resemble the very enemy he’s fighting. Notoriously unsentimental, Cravath’s intensive eyes and moving backstory might tell a far deeper story.

Here are my auditions, somewhat hurried, one of which is unprofessionally self-recorded, but both are heartfelt:

Audition 1, Cravath defends himself (on TikTok)

Audition 2, Cravath goes off the rails, losing it. (also on TikTok)

I’d love to hear your reactions. I hope for a callback at some point, which will allow me to polish these rough performances and add different takes on this complicated character.

Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath was a pastor and American Missionary Association (AMA) official who after the American Civil War, helped found Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and numerous other historically black colleges in Georgia and Tennessee for the education of freedmen. He also served as president of Fisk University for more than 20 years. (from Wikipedia).

Queen Victoria was so moved by the Jubilee Singers that she commissioned this portrait of them in 1874:

@stealawaymovie

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BRAIN PHONE

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 18, 2022

February is National poetry month.

This is not a haiku, but a much older, traditional verse form in Japanese poetry called a tanka.

As you can see, it begins like a haiku, followed by a couplet of two additional lines of seven syllables each.

It does not use an ellipsis – I added that simply to emphasize the similarity and difference.


A phone in my head

Powered by blood from my heart

so every thought

with my every heartbeat

my brain could send you my love.

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Continuation of the Five P’s and Something Else

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 14, 2022

So, for those who follow my scribblings – is it still scribbling when one types? – thank you, and as I said at the end of my last posting Popcorn, Pears, Pebbles, a Pipe, and Sweet Potato Fries, I will continue the story that I began therein.

The friend I love is an old friend of 30 years, and she clearly had something on her mind, something troubling her. She had denied it at first but told me what it was. She had changed jobs a few times, sometimes because she wanted better, and once, during the height of the Covid-19 epidemic, because the corporation that owned her just let her go, even though she worked from home and would have been happy to continue doing so. After a stressful period of looking for work, she had found another job that she hated, and then, one that pays more in money and benefits, which pleased her greatly. The problem, though, was that she felt inadequate to the job. She was experiencing self-doubt. I told her that I knew she had the ability, experience, and training for the job and that she would be fine. It sounded glib for me to have said that, and after a week of thought, because I hadn’t heard anything from her, I told her that such feelings are common and that I experience such things all the time when I start something new, like an audition (more on that next post). She didn’t respond directly, but posted a public comment: “Fail early, fail often, fail forward.” Which is to say, she’s got this, no matter what happens. I believe it. She’s often unlucky in love and is not a big fan of Valentine’s Day – today. Since she posted that her dad had sent her roses, I decided to send her a whole bunch of heart icons this morning. I’ve sent her roses before on Valentine’s Day, but it looked like her dad had already covered that.

Anyway, I am a member of a public motorcycle-riding group, open to all, regardless of bike or how often one rides. We regularly meet for breakfast and decide if we want to ride that day. It’s a laid-back group of mostly retirees. Sometimes we all go, sometimes there are just a few up for a ride. One of them called me recently and wanted to meet for breakfast. He is a pleasant sort. I thought he had a ride in mind, but when I met him, he hadn’t ridden his bike. He said he eats all of his meals out. He wanted to meet at a Little Anitas for their all-you-can-eat menudo. I won’t touch the stuff myself, because it’s made from intestines, and those are slimy and chewy, and I don’t like that. It’s an old staple breakfast or holiday treat for many in New Mexico, especially those who grew up poor when meat was expensive to obtain. Since I hadn’t grown up here, I’d never had it when I was young. It’s an acquired taste, and a “proven” hangover cure. However, I could just order something else from their extensive menu of New Mexican foods, so I did – Shrimp Diablo.

While we talked, he told me what was on his mind. I must have mentioned my woman friend to the group at some point because he asked me if she wanted to make some extra money. It turns out that he sells insurance. He often employs people to assist him. He gives them a list of people who are interested in getting insurance, and they contact them and make appointments for him to follow up. It is a work-from-home job, so I must have mentioned that about her at some point, although I don’t remember doing so. He said she could make $300 a week for eight hours work, and the woman he’d previously hired had been making $600 a week. It depends on how many people his employee can make appointments with to discuss insurance with him. It’s a real sketchy job, and not something I’d do, although when I was out of work I had tried telemarketing, which I hated.

Although I told him I’d mention it to her but I didn’t think she’d be interested, because it’s not something she’d really want to do, I had reason not to bring it up with her at all.

As we talked, he had asked how old she was. I told him she’s thirty-eight. He wanted to know if she was personable. She is. I told him she’s quite bright and has a lot of experience working with people. Somehow or other, after talking about his previous employees, he told me about a girlfriend of his, whom he used to live with, and who had two young daughters, He told me they would come on to him – you can see where this conversation was going. They were 10 and 13. He said they flirted with him, and the younger one would rub up against him which got him hot and horny, and she knew what she was doing.

His girlfriend had noticed all of this, and told him that she’d prefer he kept his interest only with the older one. It turns out, according to him, that she said she was poly-amorous herself, and if he wanted to screw her daughter, that was OK by her. I doubt that, but they aren’t together anymore. He said he had indeed screwed at least one of the daughters. Perhaps he said both, but at that point, I was appalled and disturbed and not paying as much attention. That’s rape, permission or not. I knew right then I wasn’t going to mention his job offer to my friend. And I’m not meeting this guy for a meal again. Can you imagine I’d want him anywhere near my friend? I’d known her as someone’s daughter when she was much younger, and he wanted to know if I’d screwed her, or had wanted to, and he said she had probably wanted to screw me, which is total bullshit. His twisted rapist mindset worked that way. Now, mind you, he is a big man, much younger than me, not very tall, but huge around the waist at 300+ pounds.

He’s a creep, in my opinion, and I shudder to think of what else he has done. It’s really disturbing to meet someone like that who talks about statutory rape as though it’s no big deal. I had not mentioned anything else about my friend other than her work qualifications, but I knew he was thinking about it. If she agreed to work for him, he’d likely find excuses to come by, or invite her out for meals. I’m sorry I ever mentioned her and that he knows anything about her. I was going to write about other things, but not today. This has made me fearful for her. He could look her up, scan my public posts, and likely track her down if he wanted to. So, yes, I am going to bring this up with the motorcycle group. I am, however, apprehensive about what he might do if he is banned from the group. Creepy, creepy, creepy. Deeply disturbing. I honestly don’t know what to do.

Posted in 2020s, madness, motorcycles, My Life, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Popcorn, Pears, Pebbles, a Pipe, and sweet Potato fries

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 10, 2022

I love pears. Lately, I’ve been buying pears at the market every time I go. I eat them quickly. When they aren’t available, I buy canned pears, but those are always horrible. I always forget how horrible they are. I can’t find pears in a jar, which are better. The pears I’ve been buying were gone yesterday. In their place were bags of pears, slightly smaller. I bought them. They felt hard and were a bit green yet. Today I had one while I was waiting for my cast iron pot to heat up for popcorn. It could have been riper, but good enough. I have always liked popcorn. At one time in my life, it was the only snack I ever bought. I make my own because I was always good at it. Done right, I could get all or 99.9% of them to pop fully. Without butter, popcorn is just fiber, which I don’t eat enough of. With salt and a thin coating of the vegetable oil I cooked them in, they are delicious. Bits of kernel always get stuck under my gums and between my teeth, so I don’t live on it like I used to.

I wanted a snack while I watched a movie made from the novel The Accidental Tourist. I was certain I had bought the book, but I couldn’t find it. Perhaps I skimmed through it and sold it or gave it away since I decided I wasn’t ever going to read it. So, Netflix had the movie.

The movie is slow and a bit tedious, which is what I had suspected about the novel. But WILLIAM HURT! and GEENA DAVIS! Yeah, I watched the whole movie just to watch them in action. I think William Hurt’s role was too understated for all of his talent, but he nailed it. Those gray people who need absolute order in their life, to an extreme, are as boring as those who just wait for death. Perhaps there’s no difference.

Geena Davis made this movie work. She is, of course, beautiful, but she always has fun with her roles and draws me into the stories. Irrepressible is what I’d write about her for a review. She’s so full of life and laughter and emotion. When she smiles, it is real and heartfelt; it includes her whole face and the way she moves. Her smile is infectious is what I should say.

There is a woman I know, one I love, and Geena Davis’s smile reminded me of her. When she came back from a trip to California, and she’d had time to start her new job, I messaged her – she doesn’t like talking on the phone. I asked her about lunch – sometimes, during the worst of Covid, I would pick up lunch – she worked at home often – and we’d have lunch on her front patio. It has a block wall around it because it’s alongside a heavily-trafficked road, but the area used to be dirt, covered in gravel. Her new job also allows her to work at home sometimes. It is pleasant on her patio. I paved it in concrete. Her mother paid for all the materials, and her dad came by to help me get all the wet concrete out of the chutes from the delivery truck and spread out on a section I’d leveled and prepped with expansion joint. Before I had reached that point, I had noticed that water seemed to pool in the center, so I had created a slope that would not only allow the water to drain, but I angled it to channel the water to an open space in the concrete wall. Her flat roof drains all of its water down a pipe to her patio. I left a bit of gravel-covered dirt by the drainpipe, so light drainage could simply return to the ground

Once I had that first section of concrete done, it was easy for me to pour and level the rest by myself. I had made sure, first, that the dirt and a thin gravel layer covering it were well-watered before I had started. As it set, I smoothed it so there were no dips, no swells, and no rough spots. I broomed it lightly and I put a nicer smooth edge all around with my edging tool. The patio looked professionally done. I added a bit to it. There were some multicolored glass pebbles around that she no longer wanted, and I embedded them into the wet concrete on the south side before it completely set. Since I’d spent way too much time with the finish on a very hot day, it had almost set by the time I tried adding the pebbles, so I had to hammer them in with my rubber mallet. I had enough pebbles to spell out her name because she loves her house, her first ever, and takes pride in it. I also created a small peace sign near the west wall, because she often wears one on a chain around her neck. I also kept it wet until I left, and left her a note to wet it down heavily when she got home from work and the following day. However, she had never invited me over to use it. We had never sat on it. Her mother had come over to see it, and they enjoyed chatting and drinking there. Since then her mom has moved away, to California.

It was a labor of love. I had enjoyed the project, the hard physical work, the details, and the craftsmanship. But mostly I enjoyed doing something nice for this woman I love. There are no cracks in the concrete, and the pebbles had settled in tightly for my decorative touches. It was not a large patio, so I was worried that the slope would make sitting on chairs awkward, but I cannot notice that now any more than she does. But she did notice that it drains very well. I felt pride in my work and great happiness that she liked it.

Alas, when she returned from a Califonia trip, she told me she had picked up Covid from a few of her relatives (not her mom). I had bought her a small present for her birthday that I’d not had the opportunity to give her, and I wanted to drop it off. She asked if I could also take her recyclables to the city collection area – she has no vehicle of her own anymore, since a brain operation had destroyed her peripheral vision on the left side, and she’d wrecked a few cars. She also had some used clothes to donate, so I drop those off for her sometimes.

I tried ringing her nail-polish-painted doorbell, with no response. We hadn’t set a specific time for me to come by, but she’s a runner – can’t live without running – so I suspected she was out running her troubles off, staying healthy in mind and body. I opened her garage door to get her recycle items and her donations, which set off her alarm, so she heard that and came out. As I was loading her stuff in my car, she was smiling. She had a black KN95 mask on, but I could tell she was smiling. It was in her eyes. However, it wasn’t a good time for a hug. She was dressed for a run, so I’d been right about that.

I messaged her later and told her that I could see her smiling with her eyes, and she liked that. Once she had isolated herself long enough, I asked her about lunch. I hoped to see that smile again and her whole face. She said yes since she would be working at home one day soon. She wasn’t in the mood, she said, for fish, so I got her an Albuquerque Turkey sandwich with sweet potato fries on the side, but I got the baked fish on a bed of couscous, with spinach.

She liked that, but there was very little smiling. I knew something was wrong. She denied it at first. Next time I’ll tell you about that unexpected revelation, and an odd lunch I had with a motorcycle buddy a week later, and what he asked me to do, which is something I had not expected from him, and how it was related to her.

And maybe next time, I’ll talk about the movie I’ve auditioned for and the role I hope to get. In fact, I can even insert a link to one of my auditions for the role.

Posted in 2020s, COVID-19, food, friends, love, My Life, quarantine, running | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Under a Picnic Table. A Car in the Night. A Box.

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on January 23, 2022

Pedaling a bicycle all day, every day creates a nice rhythm, like meditation. I often rode from the slightest glimmer of light to very late at night, sometimes midnight. I had a supply of soybeans, brown rice, and granola in my bicycle panniers. I found places to create a fire to cook my meals, sometimes a picnic area with a barbecue grill in it, or a patch of dirt not far off lonely roads. In the morning I looked for gas stations that had groceries, and I bought a carton of milk for my granola and a piece of fruit: apple, orange, pear, whatever each state might offer me. For lunch and dinner, it was rice and beans. Sometimes I wished I had oil, butter, or cheese, but it was what it was. Bicycles don’t have interdimensional refrigerators that I could use for food storage. I had little enough money for milk and fruit, let alone restaurant meals or motels. So that was my day: pedaling, cooking, pedaling, cooking, pedaling.

Being in a state of mind where I wandered through old nursery rhymes, music, and campfire songs as I pedaled along, sometimes I got lost. I always stopped for free maps at gas stations when I crossed state lines. Remember free maps? But, not knowing the roads I wasn’t always clear on which to take. I was, at the time, heading due west across Michigan, after coming from Ohio, through Detroit at night, with a few brief stopovers in Toronto, and other places in Canada, and around the great lakes through Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. And yet, I was lost. Numbered backwoods roads on a map don’t come with road names. There had been few houses or service stations. So when I spotted a cute little house with a finely manicured lawn just off the road, I leaned my bicycle against their short white picket fence, opened the gate, walked to the door, and knocked.

And knocked, and knocked. I could hear a TV blaring, and I knocked louder. Nothing. A kitchen window was just to my right a few feet away, so I ambled over, saw an old woman in the kitchen with her back to me, and rapped on the window. It took me a little while to get her attention. The TV was really cranked full blast in the adjoining room. She turned around finally and saw me, and I pointed towards the front door. I stepped back to the door, expecting to see her as it opened, but instead, there was a shotgun pointed at my face. That was, of course, a little disconcerting, but I really needed directions. A wrong turn could take me anywhere at night. I opened my mouth to ask for directions, and all I could get out was “Hi. Could you…”, but the man holding the shotgun wasn’t having any of that. He ordered me off his property.

I turned slightly to go, but I kept trying to spit out, “I was just…”, “I’m looking for…”, but he thrust the shotgun at me and yelled for me to get off his property again and again. I hastened to do so, needless to say, but I stopped at the gate. I tried again to ask for directions, but he wasn’t even listening. He ordered me to close the gate. I did so. Then I yelled over that I just wanted directions – shotgun still pointed at me – and could he tell me if I was on such and such highway. After a tense minute or so, he lowered the shotgun away from his face, and told me, angrily, that it was. That was all I was going to ask, so I turned, threw my leg over my trusty Schwinn “Continental” and rode. I went slowly at first, but then I got back into my rhythm and rode for a long time till after it was pitch black, except for the tiny cone of light that my bicycle put out. I had attached a small friction generator that, when released against my tire, powered my light.

Eventually, I was really feeling exhausted after a pretty grueling day. I came across a small picnic area in the middle of nowhere.

I had lost my sleeping bag while I was in Canada. A couple of drunks I’d met in a park on the Canadian side of Sault Ste. Marie had plied me with sips of wine from a shared bottle while I waited to return to the youth hostel I could stay at only at night. They were nice guys, probably Anishinaabe, from that area. We had talked about Lake Superior. There was a lot of heavy industry on the U.S side. Factories and businesses and smoke covered the U.S. shoreline.

They told me that the U.S and Canada were always fighting over rights to the lake. The U.S. had been dumping waste into the lake for some time, but the Canadians did not do so and fought the U.S. to clean up its act. The guys had also had some beers and gave me one. I had not eaten that day as yet, so I had gotten drunk. We had gone for coffee. To make a long story short, I had gotten sick after a couple sips of coffee, made a mess of the toilet there, was too weak to clean it up, and the police had been called. They told me to clean it up or be arrested. I slurred out, “Go ahead.” I was nearly passing out by then. So, while I was in jail overnight waiting to see a judge in the morning, one of the guys had taken my sleeping bag to use as a pillow, as his friend told me the next day. I had tracked the other guy down to his apartment, but he wouldn’t give it back.

However, after the judge had ordered me to pay a fine for public drunkenness, I had gone back to the youth hostel to get my bicycle and money for the fine. He had allowed me to do that. Without my sleeping bag, however, I took a blanket with me from the hostel. And I rode across the border as fast as I could into Michigan. I really couldn’t afford to use my food money for a fine. So I had become a petty criminal, I supposed.

Meanwhile, on this middle-of-nowhere road, I pulled out that very blanket and spread it out on the ground under a picnic table. I wanted to be out of sight in case the homeowner with the shotgun had called the police. You never know. With my long hair and bushy beard, I resembled Charles Manson, who, with his followers, had been all over the news for a long time after killing five people including actress Sharon Tate a few years earlier. I figured out later that the homeowner had likely put me in the same category as Manson, and had been scared to death of me. He must have thought Manson was still the leader of a nationwide revolutionary group from the way the press had carried on back then, but Manson was in jail, his followers arrested or disbanded.

I slept for a short time, wrapped in the blanket, with an arm through a bicycle wheel. But I was indeed awoken by a car that pulled into the picnic area. I hoped they didn’t see me, so I stayed quiet. I heard the car door open, and footsteps on the gravel, then, the door slammed shut and the car zoomed out. I went back to sleep. I woke at first light as usual and saw a large cardboard box on the ground by the picnic table. “Did someone leave me food?” I idly wondered. It was instead a kindle of tiny kittens. The cats were too small to crawl out. When they saw me, they all started mewing and crawling over each other. Cute as they were, there was nothing I could do for them. I petted them but had nothing they could eat with me. I didn’t have much water left in my bike’s attached bottle, but I wetted my finger and put a few drops in each of their mouths. I picked the box up and put it on top of the table with a few large stones propped around it, hoping someone would stop to check it out. I couldn’t take them with me. When I pulled up my blanket I was shocked to find that I’d been sleeping on bits of broken glass, bottle tops, various sizes of stones, and god knows what else, but I hadn’t felt a thing – I had been that tired.

After some wonderful adventures and good, kind-hearted people in Canada, I was shocked to realize the differences between our two countries. I had met people who had welcomed me into their homes, to stay a night, or for fresh, hot blueberry pie, or for a home-cooked meal. A retired farmer had taken me out to his hand-built, wood-stove-heated sauna, probably because I smelled rank after weeks on the road, only taking sponge baths in gas station restrooms. And people had insisted I come visit again, anytime.

Back in the U.S. I had a shotgun in my face, things thrown out of cars at me, people honking, yelling at me to get off the road, and now I was worried about kittens that some asshole had just dumped next to me.

Well, I was alive, in good shape, with a working bicycle for transportation. It was better than hitchhiking. I hoped to reach the west coast before I ran out of food and money. I had started out with $100 from someone I’d loaned money to, but I’d lost $50 of it when I had taken one of those sponge baths in a restroom before I’d even entered Canada. I must have put it on the shelf by the mirror. I had been a short distance away when I realized it and went back. It hadn’t been there. I had also asked the guy working there if he’d seen it, but he said he hadn’t. Nevertheless, I had continued on my trip. I’d tucked half the money in my shoe. It wouldn’t get me far. but it had to do.

I continued on, across Michigan’s upper peninsula, across a bit of Wisconsin – damn cold there at night, across Minnesota, to North Dakota. By then I really didn’t have much money left at all, enough for a few more days of milk cartons and fruit. There was still some granola, rice, and beans left, out of the five pounds of each I’d started with. I stopped at yet another gas station. The Watergate hearings were on TV, but I didn’t much care about that anymore. I was certain Nixon would be impeached. I asked the guy behind the counter about work in the area. There was a carnival down the road a little bit, and it was their last night. The station attendant told me that the carnival always needed extra hands to take everything down on their last night, and I could make a few bucks there. I thanked him and rode away to spend a night working for a carnival, I hoped. It turned out, yes, they did need temporary workers.

I helped tear down a Ferris Wheel, then went to work for the electrician, disconnecting power cables from junction boxes that fed the rides, joints, and poppers, as they shut down. The other half of the terminals in each box were still live, connected to the biggest generator I’d ever seen. One cable I took off welded itself to the metal box as I was pulling it out a hole that had no insulation around it. There was a giant cascade of sparks, and as the breakers popped off, the entire carnival went dark. The electrician came over and yanked the terminal lug away from the box. I told him what had happened. He told me, straight-faced, “Don’t do that again.” After a very long tiring night – after everything was packed up and loaded on semis – he came back and asked me if I wanted to come work for them. But, that’s another story.

Posted in 1970s, Bicycling, cats, memories, My Life, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Ticking Clock Said They Didn’t Miss Me

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on January 19, 2022

I sit on a chair in a strange kitchen. Time ticks slowly, regularly by, measured by a clock high on a kitchen wall. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick… The room is wallpapered. There is a regular pattern of fleurdelis, each one a perfect replica of the other. They are arranged in rows. I count them. There are a lot of them. I count from floor to ceiling, then move my eyes over one column, and start again, ceiling to floor. Always curious, I wonder why they are called fleurdelis. They did sort of look like lilies.

After I’ve counted hundreds of them I feel even more bored than while I had been sitting quietly, unmoving, for I don’t know how long. The house is empty. Not long after we had all arrived, my father took me here to the kitchen and told me not to move, to sit here and not move a muscle or say anything, until he came back and said I could. After some passage of time, I had heard everyone’s voices, and the frenzied round-up of all my brothers and sisters to get in the car. No one called me. No one came for me. My father said he’d come back, but he hadn’t. I heard car doors slam, and the car drive away. I do what I am told. Sometimes it is difficult to know what I shouldn’t do unless I have been told not to. Often there is pain when I do something wrong, whether I knew it was wrong or not.

But I get up anyway. It has been such a long time since I have been sitting on the same chair my father led me to. While counting fleurdelis I had noticed a church calendar on one wall. The clock is on an adjourning wall. I feel a rush of fear/excitement as I stand. I walk to the calendar, flip the pages, month by month. Nothing is very interesting about it. It is more of the same religious quotes, snippets of psalms, pictures of Jesus, Saints, and Churches, that I see every day at school. It was so long ago, that I don’t remember how old I was then, what grade I was in. The clock is plain. Large. It ticks relentlessly in the empty house. I hate it. The kitchen is very plain. There is nothing to do, nothing to read.

I am here because someone in my extended family has died, an old woman, a great aunt, I think. There had been other funerals, always of these old wrinkled women that I really didn’t know, but might have seen or been introduced to before. We had been taught to go to the coffin and say a prayer. I usually say a quick prayer, but mostly I stare at the pale wrinkled skin drawn tight. The lips held tightly together somehow. When I am older I find out that the lips are sewn together by morticians. The eyes are closed. The appearance is always of sleep, but I know they are not sleeping. I feel nothing but curiosity about a dead body – especially if I do not know or remember the person.

Alone in her house, I think. It looked vaguely familiar, but it may have belonged to another relative. I couldn’t recall being in it before. I had lots of time to think. I didn’t know why my parents left me there. Did I do something wrong? Was I too loud? Was I wandering through the house looking at things, touching things? I was always curious about everything. It was strange to be there. It felt otherworldly. Always there were siblings yelling, screaming, crying, running, or playing games. That quiet felt eerie, thick. oppressive. I did not think those words then, but I felt all of those things. I wasn’t scared. I just felt lost. The clock had ticked on and on. Its sound had filled the house, filled my head. I have never forgotten it. In my quiet house now, my kitchen clock is battery-powered, and it does not tick. I still hate that sound in an empty house or building of any kind.

I had my eighth birthday in a hospital. The nurses had brought me flat Coca-Cola syrup diluted in water. Maybe a cookie. So long ago now. But I remember being awake late at night, every night, for 30 days. Clocks ticked, along with other strange echoing sounds. When I slept I was woken up every four hours for penicillin: pills, or a shot, or a thick foul-smelling, foul-tasting liquid. My appendix had ruptured. Sepsis. Blood poisoning. After a week of illness and terrible pain in my stomach, my mom had borrowed a car and driven me to a hospital. People did not use ambulances then – they cost far too much money. I could no longer walk on my own by the time she pulled up along the curb in front of the hospital. I had wrapped an arm high up around my mother’s neck, and she dragged me, stumbling along, weak, dying. The doctors told my mother I had less than 24 hours to live. The doctors had drawn blood. Something was definitely wrong with me. They had x-rayed my stomach but the appendix couldn’t be seen. I was taken for exploratory surgery. I came out with six plastic tubes sewn along both sides of the stitched-up incision. The scar is huge to this day. If I look close I can see where the drainage tubes were. It took my parents years to pay off the bill.

But that was another time – a year or two later.

Time had dragged in those quiet hours in that house. I had begun to wonder if they would ever come back for me. If I am in the dead woman’s house, perhaps they will go home after the funeral? I thought, and the house will stay empty until someone comes to clean it, to sell it, or to move into it? I ran through many possibilities, while the clock ticked and echoed through that house. That’s how my mind entertains me.

Finally, I heard a car drive up. The front door opened a room or two away from me. My father came into the kitchen. I sat still. He asked me why I hadn’t come with them. I reminded him that he had told me to be quiet, to sit there and not move from that chair. He looked at me in disbelief, shook his head, and walked away. I followed him to the car. Nothing was ever said about it, and I wasn’t going to bring it up. I’d done something wrong, maybe not bad, but wrong. I had hoped they would forget about it. I never did. Sometimes, in my teenage years, my father would call me a literal-minded idiot. Now I know why. He died in his mid-50s, but I still miss him, and I wish I had asked him about that one time.

I still hate ticking clocks in empty rooms. I’m not fond of hospital stays either. But for the last 14 ½ years, I’ve lived alone. It’s not so bad. I can go out anytime, and I do.

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

Excursions and Leftovers

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on January 9, 2022

Brunch

First off, before I talk about musical “excursions”, I’ll explain the photo above. When I got home from the Chatter Sunday weekly concert, I was hungry. It was about noon. I was about to make an omelet, but noticed the leftovers. I had some black beans, pinto beans, saffron rice, and a little bit of crabmeat. All that sounded good. I put them all in a bowl to heat up. Meanwhile, I fried an egg, over easy. I slipped the egg over the leftovers and punctured the slightly runny yolk to add some color and flavor. I also tore up a green chili pepper (much hotter than its green pepper cousin). The combo was delicious and certainly satisfied my hunger – hunger, in my case, not starvation, but simply wanting something flavorful. It could be said that I didn’t really NEED to eat. That was something like my friend Maya had said to me recently; she said, about my having spent eight years working for a winery without pay, that I didn’t really NEED the money. While it’s true that I could survive without pay for that work, I was really broke for three years after retirement, having only enough money to pay for rent, food, utilities, and some gasoline. I couldn’t afford long car trips (in fact, when by myself, I rode my motorcycle to and from the winery to save gas, even on the coldest winter days). I couldn’t afford to travel or go out to movies or nice restaurants. No excursions for me.

Maya doesn’t drive, due to a loss of peripheral vision after brain surgery, and subsequent car wrecks, so I drove her back and forth to the winery and winery tasting events, and for a short time also back and forth to her regular job, for which she insisted I take $100 a month. And really, the old car I had then drank gas like a wino drinks cheap wine. It was costing me over twice that monthly to drive that car for her benefit, and I otherwise only used it for grocery shopping. I didn’t mind chauffeuring Maya, she had been my step-daughter for 14 years and all through her cancer operation and subsequent treatments, and then later for eight years as a coworker. But, I was perpetually broke, until years later I began getting the Social Security money I’d accumulated over 45 years.

Maya and I had worked together at a winery in early 2010 until the end of 2017. She was paid to work selling wine on holidays and certain wine tasting events, occasionally having time to help pick fruit, bottle, or label on weekends, but I worked much more often, weeding, ditch cleaning, irrigating and pruning and picking our fruit trees and grapevines, and cleaning the fermentation tanks, pumping and filtering wines, and bottling, labeling, and inventorying and selling wine. It was hard physical labor for the most part. It wasn’t a full-time job, and the hours varied. The problem was that I wasn’t getting paid. I had agreed to work for shares in the winery. It was a small independent winery, and the (private) shares were counted as income by the I.R.S., for which I had to pay taxes. The idea was that when the winery was successful, and money had been made, that there would be a point at which the winery would be sold for a large amount of money, and I would get my wages based on my shares, and the other shareholder investors would get a return on their investment. It didn’t work out that way. The man who had created the winery, our vintner, died in mid-2017 while hiking around the Capulin Volcano Monument in Northern New Mexico.

2015 PARTIAL WINE LIST

We kept it open until the end of the year, only bottling some favorite wines, and selling off some of our stockpiled wines. The decision was made to close the winery after that. No one had the time for or wanted the vintner’s unpaid job. No one wanted to put any more money into the business. There was not enough money to order bottles, so all of the 6000 gallons of the bulk wine in tanks was destroyed, per state law. We had been selling bottled wine at half-price, but after we closed, all partners could take whatever bottled wine they wanted. Since many of them lived in Placitas, and I live 25 miles away, I didn’t get out there before most of the best wines – in short supply – like the Rojo Seco, Blanco Seco, Cranberry, La Luna, Wild Cherry, Chokecherry, and Synaesthesia were gone. I took what was left of a few of those, but mostly the less desirable wines, about six cases. I don’t have a cellar, so some of what didn’t fit in my refrigerator I put in my unused dishwasher – it’s well insulated and seals tightly. The rest went in a storage room (not temperature regulated), so I will likely end up throwing it out. I don’t drink by myself. I sold some cheaply and gave a lot away.

The point of this story is that I was losing money, not just from not getting paid, but having to pay taxes on the shares. It made me angry that Maya – to my mind – dismissed all my hard work and lost money as unimportant since I didn’t NEED the money I had been promised. I still find that hard to forgive. It wasn’t the only thing she said that I found disturbing, and I may have inadvertently insulted her, so I ended up feeling like she didn’t like me, had moved on, and we were no longer friends. That had never happened to us before. I love her very much, but suddenly I didn’t want her photos on my wall, didn’t want to see her posts or photos online or even think about her. I had been divorced twice in my life, including from her mom, and although it was bad, I never felt like I didn’t want to ever see them again. In fact, I missed them a lot, but I’ve gotten over that. I live alone. Despite having many interactions with fellow actors, with hikers, and with neighbors, I felt cut off. Hollow inside. Depressed and ready to leave the state forever.

Although I did end up missing Maya, we finally met for a wine tasting on neutral ground. It was a subdued get-together, and although we touched on a couple of sore points (for me), she didn’t understand why I took things the way I did, and I dropped it. Although I was happy to see her, I ended up rambling and boring her (I’m old). She was anxious to get back to her house. She didn’t want a ride home. In fact, she hadn’t wanted a ride to the wine tasting, hadn’t wanted me to come over for lunch as we had done fairly often last year, and she hadn’t wanted to have my signature black-bean chile con carne, paired with red wine at my house.

So, I haven’t moved away yet. In fact, I went to Sunday Chatter this morning. It was not the concert that had been planned – that was supposed to be Spektral Quartet, a string quartet based in Chicago. It is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago’s Department of Music. They had to cancel. But pianist Luke Gullickson played some amazing music to make up for it, like a six-part composition called Walk in Beauty by Peter Garland, the Night Psalm by Eva Beglarian, and the wonderful EXCURSIONS op.20 (1945) by Samual Barber. I do hope Spektral Quartet will be able to make some other time. They blend music from different centuries into eclectic concerts described as creative, collaborative, thrill rides, and magical.

There was poetry and spoken word by Nathan Brown, a favorite of mine and the Chatter crowds. He is an award-winning poet, an author, and a songwriter. He has 25 books to his credit.

Nathan Brown

We’re very lucky to have him from time to time. He taught at the University of Oklahoma for twenty years. He taught memoir, poetry, songwriting, and performance workshops from Tuscany and Ireland to the Sisters Folk Festival in Oregon, the Taos Poetry Festival, the Woody Guthrie Festival, Laity Lodge, the Everwood Farmstead Foundation in Wisconsin, as well as the Blue Rock Artist Ranch near Austin, Texas. He seriously made me laugh today numerous times.

And, there were free cookies and banana bread. And I have an acting class tonight.

Posted in 2020s, Life, love, My Life, poetry, Random Thoughts, relationships | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Five Decembers, a Book Review I had to Write

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 21, 2021

I don’t read crime novels all that often. The genre, as a genre, doesn’t attract me. There are some good ones and many that are forgettable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one: Five Decembers by James Kestrel.

ISBN: 9781789096118

I didn’t know much about this, or the author, which is how it usually happens to me. I pick up a book in some way and decide to read it one night. And then I can’t stop. The thing is mesmerizing. The circumstances are not anything I am familiar with, in a place and time I’ve never been. But they are vivid. I am there. The details are right. The setting is right. The crimes are – were – unthinkable. The story builds and builds and twists like a Hitchcock story, but there’s even more to it. There is a passion bubbling through all this, and it also builds slowly just like a suspense thriller. There is death and killing to make WWII’s mass killings seem like a dream, because I was right here, now, in a place where some people died and some people killed. Some of it had to happen, and some of it didn’t. And the lives that were affected also affected me. At one point I stopped breathing, my heart skipped a beat, and I feared death. I felt what the people in it were feeling. And I had to stop for a couple of minutes. And that’s no hyperbole.

I haven’t read anything like this in a long time. This is good, really good. It is the stuff that keeps me reading late, past midnight. I would have read it straight through but I started too late, and I needed sleep really bad and I had little time to do it. So, when I could, I sat down the next day. I looked at the book and told myself I had something more important to do. I started in on what I had to do, but couldn’t stick with it. I found myself looking at the book again, and told myself I’d read just a little bit, but that was a lie because I couldn’t put it down again, and I knew I couldn’t as soon as I read one more sentence.

So, put it on your to-read list. Read it, or don’t. But you’ll be missing something if you don’t.

Posted in Book review, crime, fiction, Life, war | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DEVICES OFF – Tuning Out On My Birthday

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 19, 2021

On October 8, 2021 – this is what I did – I wrote. It is 99% unchanged from free-association writing, except for misspellings and gross errors.

Last night I decided that today, on the anniversary of my birth, I would turn my phone, TV, news radio, and desktop computer off. I knew that my contacts on Facebook, family and friends, would be notified of my birthday, and I would receive many greetings and birthday wishes. As nice as that is, I’d rather see people in person, raise a glass together, laugh, or discuss. So, I’m incommunicado today. I’m writing this on a yellow pad of paper with a black-ink ballpoint pen, despite my unpracticed handwriting skill.

The first thing I noticed was that, since I’ve given up coffee, and I make black tea instead, I always have to wait for it to steep, so I kill time while I wait. However, what do I do today? Ordinarily, I would play Solitaire games on my computer. The computer is off. It’s so quiet, unnaturally quiet, so I switch on my receiver. It’s part of my old-school component music system: radio receiver/controller, six-CD rotating player, a vinyl record turntable, and even a cassette player. In the last fifty years I’ve managed to accumulate a collective total of 800 vinyl records, CDs, and cassette tapes. I used to have a reel-to-reel tape deck, but I sold it decades ago. For a time I had a combination vinyl, cassette, and 8-track player, but I traded that to my wife for one of her watercolors, years before we married, as a music system for the young girl who would become my stepdaughter.

In years of late, I have not played too many of all those music recordings. “PANDORA” has become my go-to source of music while I’m reading or writing. Both phone and desktop computer are off. So, no Pandora. Changing out various media all day would interrupt my writing flow, so I opt to listen to non-news radio, ED-FM (103.3) instead. It plays mostly pop music from the last few decades, and commercials, but no news, no sports, no talk, no traffic reports. I hate the commercials, but I can tune them out while reading or writing. ED often plays what they call “a bunch of music in a row,” without commercial interruptions, so I enjoy that. It does tend to be repetitive, and limited to mostly pop music, which is why I prefer using the Pandora app. I love the way I can select different “stations” or types of music there, and I always have it in “shuffle” mode so that I never know what I’ll hear next, classic rock, jazz, blues, salsa, merengue, electronic, folk, classical, reggae, R&B, soul, or select country music like Willie Nelson. Pandora remembers my favorites and plays new music that I can add or reject. It’s better than any radio station.

Moving on from music, I saw an odd image of a woman holding a weather balloon in the current issue of Smithsonian Magazine. The article was a fascinating account of the birth of the National Weather Service. The odd thing about the woman is that she is wearing a mask while she holds the balloon, and it was taken in 1890. I want to research that, but NO INTERNET today. I could walk down the street to the local public library, but already I miss being able to look something up instantly. It’s a small library and I don’t know if I could find something about the early weather balloons and why one needed to wear a mask (so as not to breathe the helium?).

For now, I’m listening while I read, something I really enjoy. I am nearly finished reading a book, Mayordomo, Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico, by Stanley Crawford. Having spent one long day a year helping to clean the acequia or village ditch in Placitas, where the winery I worked at for eight years was located, I am fascinated by Crawford’s account of the politics of water, the meetings, the disputed water rights, and the gossip that goes into making sure that water flows through an acequia, and that everyone gets either the water they need or are entitled to as a parciante – one who has shares in the association based on the size of their irrigatable land, or traditional access. This is all water only for irrigation or livestock. Drinking water is drawn from wells or municipal water pipes.

I notice that my handwriting is deteriorating as I write – I should practice more. I hope I can read this later.

As I read Crawford’s book, I come across a word I don’t know: desagüe, referring to a permanent structure to help control the flow of water down the acequia. I understand the use of the word, but not the exact meaning, and I have no idea how it is properly pronounced. Quick! – to the internet! – usually Google, but NO, not today — I am not connected. So, my attempt to pronounce the word properly will have to wait, if I remember to check the pronunciation when I reconnect. Or I could ask the neighbor who lent me the book. I am so dependent on technology that it didn’t occur to me first that I could simply ask someone.

Despite the stiffness of this “Knee Pad” of paper with a cardboard back that rests on my knees, it is not easy to write this way. I could sit down at a table, or my desk, but I am writing in my overstuffed chair that my two step-children donated to me after my divorce from their mother. The chair is old now, as frazzled as I am, but still, it is comfy. I could pull a large book from my shelves to help balance the kneepad on, but I am using my laptop computer as a hard surface to write on. So many ways to connect, but not today. Tomorrow I will transcribe all of this using my word processor application on my desktop computer, with its big screen and large keyboard. Tomorrow. It will take some time to do that, especially translating my roughly scribbled words into formatted text, using whole sentences (mostly) in paragraphs, and spell-corrected.

Hmm – five and a half pages of Palmer-Method penmanship so far, and it’s only 8:49 in the morning, even after reading a bit. What the hell time did I get up? If I write all day I’m going to have a novelette to transcribe. Sigh.

Well, I’m going to make breakfast now. Black tea, since I’ve given up coffee as of a few months ago, is not enough to sustain me for long. Yea! – back to one of my favorites: a small stack of corn tortillas interspersed between the layers with sautéed onion slices, garlic, a large green chile, and a drizzle of uncooked red chile sauce and grated extra-sharp cheddar. And, of course, a fried egg – to top it off – and one more drizzle of red. Ahhh. After breakfast, I finished the book. “Muy suave”, as the ditch Mayordomo replies to a hard-working parciante on the ditch who asks that these other ditch cleaners admire his meticulous tarea, his work to dig and clean up a section of ditch.

It’s only 10:11 am; now what?

I now realize that I depend on the internet to entertain me, inform me, and waste time – a brief sit to check on casting calls, look up a word, or read the latest email turns into hours of browsing that don’t seem that long until I realize I’ve cut into my sleep time. But, the days go by quickly when I’m “connected”, unlike now when I’m not. So little time to count down the years to my departure from this world. I should waste less of that time.

When I finish a book, I always take a break from reading to consider what I’ve read. Right now I find myself looking at photos. There is a hidden photo album in my bookcase that I came across while I wandered aimlessly through the house, unable to decide what to do. It is a photo from circa 1998, twenty-three years ago. In the photo, she is nude sitting on the edge of a hot tub near Santa Fe. She is OK with me taking the photo, but only of her face and shoulders, as I recall.

But the lens is a good one and captured a bit more. Her dark hair is tied back, with thick tendrils falling alongside her face in front of her ears. Her olive shoulders are smoothly rounded. Her eyebrows are thick and dark like her eyes, which are even darker with applied makeup above and below. Her mouth is open, smiling, upper teeth resting on her lower lip. Her neck appears long, straight, and smooth to the point where it meets her hidden ribs. Her breasts are plump and hang low after suckling two children. Light blue arteries spider-web out from around her large areolas. Her nipples are erect and slightly pink in their centers. I take all that in, in an instant before the shutter clicks. Then I move towards her so that I can feel those smooth shoulders, press my lips to hers, feel her breasts against my chest, her warm back under my hands. But that moment is long, long ago now. I’ve not seen her or touched her in 14 years. I don’t miss her anymore. But I like that memory.

That memory aside, I am here now in this time. I open my door to see what the day is like. It is warm and sunny now, although the house is still cool from the desert night. I look at the work I did around the new door I installed, having just installed new weather stripping, and replacing the rubber in the metal threshold which is cemented in place below the door. I had thought I’d have to chip the old threshold out in order to close off that drafty space, but when I was picking out weather stripping at the hardware store, I saw the replacement rubber insert and happily thought it might just work. It did. My door closes softly and securely against its old frame and threshold. The heavy old frame is bolted firmly into the adobe wall. There are no gaps. It is ready for winter. Am I ready for winter? for my winter?

I notice small holes in the frame, holes from small nails that pepper the wood. Some are left from the hinges for the old screen door I removed, but others are spread all around the frame in between the door and the space where the screen door hung. I get out my caulking gun and fill all of the holes. Then I grab the HOA-approved brown paint to blend the holes into a smooth brown perimeter. I’m a good renter, my landlady says. That done, I’m hungry again. Sliced ham on oat bread. It’s a bit after 2:00 pm. I sit down with a book of poems by Irish poet Attracta Fahy, Dinner in the Fields, but I put it down after a few pages in order to resume writing.

After writing the preceding paragraphs, I finished the Attracta Fahy book by 3:30 pm. While I had been reading it, I snacked on a mixture of citrus-flavored Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. I shouldn’t. Seems like all I do is eat. I don’t need the extra calories, the extra fat on my stomach, but hell, it’s my birthday still, and at 71, I don’t know how many more of those I will have.

This leads me to reflect on the poems I just read. Most of them dealt with love and pain and overcoming adversity, all of which speak to the legacy of Ireland. She also writes of nature and beauty and birds and ancestors – also things which evoke Ireland’s legacy. One poem stood out for me: THE TUAM MOTHER-AND-BABY HOME. It was a place where she once stayed, tended to by the nuns for ten days while her mother was too ill to care for her. It is the same place where just recently a trove of infant bones was discovered in an old septic tank. I remember that from my Google News feed from not long ago. Her poem tells of the discovery and her connection to it with mixed feelings, and I understand that.
3:48 pm. What now? I have another book of poems ready to read in front of me, but I’m not ready. It’s The Blood Poems, 101 poetry pages by a local poet I love to read and listen to, Jessica Helen Lopez. I decide to wait. I am going out for a five-minute walk to the mail kiosk.

Aha! A book arrived in the mail; it is The Shadow of a Man, by Benoit Peters, illustrated by François Schuiten. It’s a beautifully written and exquisitely colored graphic novel, 104 pages. Sorry, Jessica, as much as I love your poetry and admire you, I’m going to read this part of their Obscure Cities series now. I finish it fairly quickly, pausing to admire the wonderful illustrations. The book was published in 1998 and revised in 2008, but it has only recently been translated into English. Yes! I loved it. It is the story of a man haunted by nightmares. They are ruining his sleep, his job, and his new marriage, but the cure for them changes everything. A man living in his dreams is like a man living in his memories, in my opinion. So, is he really living? really happy? Am I? What a birthday this is. Perhaps it will be a rebirth for me? Probably not. I seem set in my ways, but so was the protagonist of The Shadow of a Man.

Now I feel like reading JHL’s book. But first…. no, no, no – I will not go online. Damn it. Why does my life revolve around the world wide web? First, I will eat some leftover mac ‘n’ cheese from yesterday. My life appears to also revolve around food. 5:37 pm. I opened Jessica’s book – 45 poems. I don’t have to read them all tonight. But what else is there to do without internet or TV? I don’t want to know the news today. No more about debt ceilings, Biden, Trump, McConnell, etc. Not today. No more about shootings. No more. “Stop the world, I want to get off,” someone said – a song, a book, a play? I can’t remember – and I can’t look it up today. Agggh! I have so much restless energy that I can’t take a nap. Mosquitos have gotten into the house, hiding, until I feel the unrelenting itching, on the top of my feet mostly, no matter where I sit. So much I want to do. I’ve read three books now that I want to record in goodreads.com; I do that for two reasons: (1) it helps me know what I’ve read so I don’t buy another copy some day, and (2) it motivates me. I set a specific number of books to read each year and Goodreads keeps track. I’ve exceeded my goals most years but lost interest during 2020 when, paradoxically, I had much more time to read, but no time to kill waiting to be on set, or traveling. Being home so much was so frustrating I found it hard to focus.

Just listening to the radio station now. It’s been on all day. So many commercials. I want my Pandora channel, but they have commercials unless I send them money not to interrupt my music.

Now I’m finally started The Blood Poems by JHL, who is an Albuquerque Poet laureate. Blood oranges, boiling blood, blue-black blood, kicking it with Death, anger-no anger, “inbetweenthelegs” freedom, fickle fire, blue and lonely as a salty song calling for a shore. From somewhere in her book I copy down: “How the heart fractures beneath the weight of an endless nuclear winter.” I loved reading that thought. Jessica writes about life, life as poetry. She haunts “the house of” (my) “blood.”

8:56 pm. I want to turn the TV on. I don’t. I am listening to the radio still, my one vice today. My token electronic device. Now that it’s night, I also use light bulbs, but they are not electronic, not media. The radio only plays music for me, and commercials for themselves. Occasionally it gives me a snippet of weather, the same weather I can see outside my windows, the same weather I feel when I go outside, so it doesn’t really count as “news”. I have no idea what’s happening today, Friday, October 8, 2021. I don’t know who killed who. I don’t know what some lying hypocrite of a politician is saying about another politician. I don’t know anything about Covid-19 today. I don’t know who is doing what with missiles.

I am home in my casita, alone with a cat I didn’t want but take care of. I have my books, my musical recordings, and my writing. I could be writing in a remote shack in the Sahara or on an ice flow, or on top of a high mountain peak. With solar cells. Because of music. I don’t play any instruments, so I can be a hermit if I still have music.

I’ve settled into an acceptance of this day of disconnect. Some days I feel disconnected, all the while connected to the world only electronically. I think that if I learned anything today, it’s that I am not as disconnected as I had believed. Still, electronic connection is an illusion. Behind the illusion are friends that want to wish me a Happy Birthday, some of them good friends and family. But most days, except for my birthday, I don’t hear from people. Sometimes they like a photo I’ve posted, or comment on one. But the only people I talk with in person are other background actors (movie/TV extras) who are as bored as I am waiting in holding for someone to tell us we can go to set: to sit, or walk, or pretend gamble in a casino, or pretend talk noiselessly to each other. In holding we talk about the production we’re on, others we’ve been on, and above-the-line actors who we’ve met or would like to meet. Phones aren’t allowed on set, so phone and media addicts explode with talking every chance we get, until a production assistant tells us to ”Keep it down”, or “Put your masks on,” or ‘Sit six feet apart,” or “Sip your drink but keep the mask on between sips,” or ten feet apart if eating in the “green” zone.


9:30 pm. I still resist the automatic urge to push-button the TV on, or check my email to read the dozens of casting notices posted every day on Facebook. Tomorrow will be a busy day: mark as-read three books from today, or four if I finish The Blood Poems tonight, mark The Shadow of a Man as received on Amazon; write a review of it, catch up on my daily Microsoft Solitaire games, pick up eggs from the Saturday Farmer’s Market in the village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and buy a few things at the grocery store. But I will also get to have beer with some friends I met while making a seven-minute movie for the 48-hour movie project, while we wait to see if we get any awards for our hard work. Most of the people I see often are actors, wanna-be actors, would-be directors, camera tech’s, sound tech’s, lighting tech’s, wardrobe people, editors, and writers. But they have lives away from set. I have little else to do.

10:03 pm. I read a few more poems by Jessica Helen Lopez, including POEM FOR MY BELOVED, an eight-page revelation about a new lover. And then there is another poem still, titled: THE LAST POEM I WILL WRITE FOR MY LOVER, a sad lament for a lover who has said goodbye, and the UN-LOVE POEM. Yeah, I know about un-love. I wonder idly who the guy was she was with when she read poems from her new book at Sunday Chatter not too long ago, who she said “I love you” to from the stage. Same guy or a completely new one? I wonder because the book was already in print before that Sunday morning when her poetry spoke of a new lust for living. Well, that’s her business, All I know is that I enjoy her poems – the wordplay and passion she puts into her writing. I’m a fan.

I’m also a fan of Poetry & Beer, a monthly meeting of poets to poetry-slam or just use the open mic. This past Wednesday, two days ago as I write this, it was instead called Poetry & Whiskey, because the brewery now serves their own whiskey, and I just had to go. I’m glad I went. Two of Albuquerque’s best slam poets had a boxing poetry match, where they went at each other and the audience, back and forth, with poem after poem, including improvisation. It was theater, o fuck no, it was better than theater. I enjoyed it so much. I had arrived too late to sign up for the open mic, or for the slam, so I became a judge. I always enjoy being a judge – forces me to listen to every word closely. I had a ball trying to be tough because the MC told me to be tough. There was a $50 prize.

And, to be honest, there was a bespectacled woman sitting at the bar listening intently to all of the poetry. I’m a fan of bespectacled women. The glasses pegged her as likely an intellectual or at least someone who reads a lot or writes. I went over to her and asked, and yes, she is a poet, and she is going to bring poems next time. I’ll be going for sure. Meanwhile, I’ve managed to write twenty pages, it’s late, and I’m off to bed.

-END-

Posted in 2020s, Beer, Book review, food, friends, Life, My Life, poetry, rambling, Random Thoughts | 4 Comments »

Chatter Sunday for a Crabby Man

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 12, 2021

Another Sunday morning. Music, an Americano coffee, poetry, homemade ginger snaps, oatmeal/cranberry cookies. I do love a Sunday morning motorcycle ride to Chatter, a 50-Sundays-a-year music and poetry performance in downtown Albuquerque, NM.

The first piece today was a spirited violin performance, Grand Caprice on Erlkönig, created by Heinrich Ernst, performed by Chatter organizer David Felberg. Ernst based the piece on Franz Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig,” which was itself based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It depicts the tragic death of a child whose father rides his horse like the wind to escape a supernatural being, the Erlking, who is coming for his boy. I believe the story is an allegory for grave illness taking the boy. The piece we heard today was a very stirring solo violin rendition of Heinrich Ernst, who is considered a master of the violin, the outstanding violinist of his day. It’s a great piece for Chatter’s master violinist David Felberg, who is very passionate in his playing. The piano in Der Erlkönig itself is worth searching for a performance of this hair-raising piece. The motif shows up in the violin piece but with less of the effect of foreboding and dread. Grand Caprice, less edgy, is however much more energetic, at least as it was played today.

Johann Wolfgang von GOETHE

Joined by Luke Gullickson on piano, we were further treated to Moments Musicaux of Schubert, and a Violin Sonata in A major (1817), also of Schubert. Felberg and Gullickson rocked the piece.

The poetry (spoken word) part of the morning was unusual, consisting of not only poet John Barney, but also Levi Brown on percussion, Lisa Donald on cello, and Charlotte Leung on saxophone. John Barney is an illustration artist, sketching the performances most Sundays, except when he is performing. The cello and saxophone coupled with his poetry I thoroughly enjoyed, but the masterful percussion, although appropriate enough to the poetry, I did not enjoy as much.

Which I also say of the two pieces in the program of contemporary German composer Helmut Lachenmann. The first piece, Toccatina (1986), is meant to be played very softly on violin, but the building’s heater system made listening very difficult, on top of the erratic nature of the composition itself. The other piece, Ein Kinderspiel (1980) was easier to hear due to the piano, but not really worth it to me. It seems typical of modern compositions which tend to defy any sense of melody, perhaps meant as primarily intellectual exercises, and not for anyone’s emotional enjoyment. I do not enjoy such music; I find it annoying, even if I can recognize the musician’s expertise. Music, in my opinion, should move me in some way, not be simply annoying, or even when melodious, not be played without even a hint of emotion.

But that’s just my opinion. The rest of the program was excellent.

Arriving home, I decided to use some of the pure “jumbo lump” Chesapeake Bay blue-crab meat that was delivered to my door yesterday. It was so fresh and flavorful that I felt like I had caught the crabs and steamed them myself just prior to picking out all of their meat. The crabs had been lightly steamed under pressure, picked, packed on ice, and shipped immediately. It was hard not to eat the whole pound at once. But I managed to save 2/3 of it. I used another third to make one large crabcake for myself because I do like hot and crispy crab sometimes. I fry them in vegetable oil covered by a heavy lid so that I do not need so much oil. Originally, crabcakes were flash-fried in deep fryers, and often now they are baked, but I prefer them oil fried. They must be fried in very hot oil, quickly, so as to have a crispy surface, but a hot center of fresh spicy meat.

I added an egg, a crumbled slice of bread, some hot mustard powder, a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, Old Bay seafood seasoning, garlic powder, a dash of baking powder, and a modicum of milk (to soften the stale bread or breadcrumbs). it was delicious, and a perfect addition to a great morning.

Up next Sunday will be Kim, Mozart, Montgomery, Herrero & Armenteros, Belgique, Fuerst, and Neal. And, no I do not know any of them are except for Mozart. Neither do I know the musicians: Barth, Voglar Belgique, and Gordan, or the poet Cat Reece, but I’m always open to new things and people. Being open doesn’t mean I will like the music or musicians, but I may.

Posted in 2020s, coffee, death, food, music, My Life, poetry | Leave a Comment »

A WARM SUNRISE BEFORE THE WIND, ACTION!

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 4, 2021

As I was rinsing roasted green chile skin off my fingers, after having prepared an extra-sharp cheese with tomato sandwich, and about to top it off with the green chile flesh, I was thinking about writing. It’s been a while. I did write some poetry amid the pandemic, but it seems like it will never end now. After having a low-key “breakout” case of Covid-19 in August – likely the delta variant – even after having had two inoculations against the damned virus, I found myself swamped with background work for movies and TV shows in September, October, and November. I managed to get on the Better Call Saul TV series again, in their last season, as I had hoped. It’s only background work, but it’s safer than being in a western these days. Speaking of which, yes, I was indeed on the movie set of Rust, one cold, rainy day about a week before the shooting. Alex Baldwin was not there that day. Usually one does not speak about being on a production, or who was in it until that movie or episode is released, but that movie is never going to be finished, never going to be seen.

I did not know or meet the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, but she was ever-present that day. One of the scenes involved my standing next to the main camera as it rolled by on a dolly track. The camera went into a building while I looked on, standing perfectly still. The camera was just a couple inches from me, and one cannot step on or kick a dolly track, or bump the camera. Then they turned the camera around to catch us lookie-loos staring into a dramatic murder trial.

Halyna had a strong Eastern European accent, and I heard a few recognizable Russian words coming from her. I did not know who she was at the time – background actors are given few details about much of anything on set – but I saw this woman hovering around the cameras constantly, checking angles, lenses, lighting, etc. Every time I heard that accent, I turned, and there she was again. I did know a camera assistant there whom I have the random pleasure of running into from time to time. He was the man behind the camera on a seven-minute short in which I had my first speaking role. He spoke at a candlelight vigil for Halyna, and how they worked together, how they were both camera nerds, loving the business, trying new lenses, new angles and such. He was nearly overcome with grief and left hurriedly after speaking – a brief hug and he was gone. If you’re interested, there is a scholarship in Halyna’s name now.

I’ve been by the ranch where Rust was being shot. The last time I saw it was over the course of three days I spent further down the same road on another ranch – life goes on – on another western set for a completely different movie. I passed that locked gate six times. It was never opened. I don’t know how long that ranch will be shut down. Many movies are usually shot there, sometimes concurrently.

The production I was on this time was centered around some well-known western characters. One morning, after passing the sadly locked, guarded, and well-lit gate again, I arrived on this other set well before anyone else, even the crew. I’d been told to come back the night before, but the time I’d been given was changed later that night, and I didn’t get the text. I was there a bit before 7 am. It was still dark. I knew something was wrong when I saw no other vehicles coming and going, and no one was there with a flashlight to guide me into the rustic site. I walked around for a bit, tossing my thick jacket back into the car, because it was unusually warm, seeing as the sun was not yet visible above the horizon. There was nothing to do, so I sat and watched the sunrise. I enjoyed that. I thought about nothing. I just enjoyed the rainbow colors, the brightening sky, the mountains, and the warm quiet. As soon as the sun was full “up”, the wind started. I had to go back for my jacket, thankful that I’d brought a warm navy peacoat with me. One car showed up. It was a security guard, a Navajo woman, and we talked a bit. It was nice to see a friendly face in that deserted place. I remember her name as Doreen, but I have trouble remembering names.

As the sky lightened, I noticed something gleaming in the dirt near where the action was the night before. It was a knife, shiny and clean. When people began showing up I asked around, but no one in the production staff or the film crew identified it as theirs. I figured some grip had been using it to help cut and strip wires, but I was never able to return it to its owner. Perhaps it belonged to the horse wrangler that was there the day before, but I hadn’t thought of him until just now. The knife is likely a handy tool for cutting rope or leather, I’d imagine. There are strict rules regarding weapons on set, and no actor can bring one on set, but this reminded me more of a tool. I found out that it is a type of curved one-piece steel knife called a karambit, with a big hole in the grip part. With my hand wrapped around the grip, my pinky fit right into that hole – a good defensive weapon. It’s not legal to conceal carry such a knife in New Mexico, so perhaps that’s why no one claimed it. When I mentioned it to a PA (production assistant), he freaked out a bit, anxiously asking me if I had it on me, so I had to reassure him that it was safely stashed in my car. Safety is a big concern on movie and TV sets, and with the recent focus on the shooting death down the road from us, he was rightly concerned.

I was pretty damn excited to be there that day because there was a good possibility that I was to have an actual speaking part in a small scene. After breakfast, and after sitting on my ass for some time, which is part of a typical day on a movie set for background actors, I did get some lines. I rounded up another extra and we wandered off to a nearby horse trail to rehearse the scene. I had to be really worked up to deliver these lines in character, so I spent some time after I learned the lines running up and down that trail. I got the lines down pat and had a good idea of who I was and how I’d react to the news I was giving, and what else I’d feel. Later, I went looking for the AD (assistant director) who had given me the lines. I saw her in a serious discussion with someone and waited quietly off to the side.

She finally mentioned me to the man she was speaking with. He turned out to be the picture’s director. I mentioned earlier that we background rarely know much, but it’s just as well. Most times I’d never have a reason to speak with a director, actor, or crew, other than the PA who wrangled the background actors. But the AD told him I could do that scene. It was a scene added by the writer because the actor who would have given those lines was no longer on set, and the lines were necessary to set up a chase scene. So, the director turns to me and says, “OK. Do it.” He meant right now, right there. I must have blinked, because he added, “Just give me the lines straight,” which I could easily do. When you add emotion into a scene, sometimes the lines give way to your character’s mental state, and you end up winging parts of it. But, I knew the lines, and rattled ’em off, with a pause between each line to react to what the other actor would be saying. When I finished, the director gave me a big thumbs-up, and said, “You’re hired.” Those are the best words I could have heard, better than hearing, “We are wrapped,” after long days and nights on a set. I was elated.

Alas, hours later, I found out that they had decided they had no time to do that scene and dropped it. We were indeed wrapped. However, I was still happy to have had something to do, something that would further my craft. And those magic words from the director had really buoyed my spirits. I do like acting. And being on set. This was the last day. The few background actors still around had been asked to stay and help pack things up, which I was only too happy to do. And we’d get a bit more money for doing so. It was a non-union set, and we were paid in cash.

Since then, Tina Fey was in a nearby town, and while I didn’t get to meet her, I was very happy to see her up close. She really is gorgeous, especially with the New Mexico sun lighting her face like a golden sunrise. I’ve always admired her since her Saturday Night Live days. Her witty writing appealed to me. She made me laugh out loud with her Sarah Palin impersonations. Her acting on 30 Rock and her dramatic role in the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which was shot in New Mexico, had made me a solid fan of her work. I knew she was good-looking. I loved her look in glasses. But I had never realized just how strikingly beautiful her face is. Lovely woman.

Recently I rode my motorcycle out of town to be on a movie set. They needed four motorcycles.

It wasn’t too far away, but the temperature in the early morning was in the mid-20s, and construction on that portion of Interstate 40 had traffic bogged down at times behind an endless line of bumper-to-bumper semis. It took much longer to get there than I like in that kind of freezing weather. I researched the wind chill factor; it turned out that at 75 mph in 25°F weather, I was chilled to 1°F. We worked a long day after that, and I wasn’t looking forward to that cold, dark ride home among those long lines of trucks. Even though I just then found out that my taillight had burned out, I started back, sandwiched between two other riders. However, we got separated, and I wasn’t up for racing by those trucks each time a lane opened back up, jack-rabbiting from truck to truck at high speeds. It turned out I was exhausted from being up hours before dawn, that cold ride, and the long day of work, so l did not feel safe. I pulled into a Casino lot a half-hour from Albuquerque to rest a bit, but as soon as I saw the motel there, parked, and got a bite to eat, I got a not-cheap room and passed out on a soft bed. Breakfast was free. I hated to waste most of what little money I had just made, but I made it home in one piece, well-rested, well-fed, and happy.

But, I have a script now. It’s for a movie I know little about, like when it will shoot, where it will be shot, or if it will ever be seen if it is shot, but I enjoy working a character, forcing my mind to work, to memorize, to learn, to not act, to just be.

And then I just today applied to work on another project that will shoot all this month, and I’m ready for that. I’d like a speaking role. They want people who are athletic enough “to run, jump, and do minor fight scenes.”

After 8 and 1/2 years of winery work: cleaning ditches, irrigating, picking fruit, bottling wine, handling thousands of cases of wine every year, lifting 14-gallon demijohns, cleaning empty wine tanks, planting fruit trees, and after climbing mountains all that time, having run three half-marathons, having poured molten bronze years before that, having worked for a carnival before that, and having bicycled across the country before all of that, I’m ready. I’m quite a bit older, but still fit enough. Bring it on.

Posted in 2020s, acting, current events, In front of the camera, motorcycles, My Life | Leave a Comment »

Music, Sweet Music, Day Trippin’ on Music

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 27, 2021

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Yes. Another whole day of music. Chatter Sunday

and Chatter Caberet.

My Sunday started off with a cup of Americano, a small scone, and a double-chocolate red-chile cookie, while waiting for the music. I chatted with an old musician sitting next to me. Coffee makes me talkative. The music began with Giuseppe Verdi’s L’esule (1839), with tenor John Tiranno, Natasha Stojanovska on piano.

I don’t enjoy operatic singing. I like the orchestral music that comes with it, but I would be more interested in the story if it didn’t come with all the coloratura. Those trills drive me off the wall. At any rate, Mr. Tiranno sang with gusto, but kept to the words, rather than all the ornamentation introduced by Italian singers in the 17th century, and often highly elaborated and exaggerated by the vainglorious. It was OK. An exile longing for death in English would have been better, for me. Tiranno enjoyed it far too much for me to hear the pathos, but I like passion in people, even it it’s not in keeping with the story.

The musicians took the stage for a piano trio (no. 1, op 8, 1923) by Dmitri Shostakovish. It opened with some harshness, to my ears, but settled into some highly enjoyable and powerful playing. Mozart really rocks.

Damien Flores

After that, Damien Flores took the stage, but not to sing or play music. He’s a poet, and there is always poetry in the middle of the musical selctions. Damien is a poetry slam champion, educator, author, and radio broadcaster. He also hosts Poetry & Beer, which I often attend at Tractor Brewing. I enjoyed his collection of poems titled Junkyard Dogs, but he presented two poems today, one of which dealt with hospitals, family and death, while the other was well-written humor. I laughed throughout that one. And yes, out loud, with gusto.

The concert finished with Songs of a Wayfarer (1883) by Gustav Mahler. They are not happy songs. In fact they deal with the pain, depression, and suffering of someone dealing with unrequited love. Sad songs, but I understand them, all too well. John Tiranno sang those also, and he was fierce.

I had the chance then to go home and relax for a bit before heading to the Albuquerque Museum for Chatter Caberet. I made a small plate of three-tiered cheese enchiladas with corn tortillas, onions and both green and red chile.

I enjoyed Lullaby (1919) by George Gershwin, followed by Luke Gullickson on Piano performing Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau de couperin (1914), during which I knocked over half of my glass of red wine. I was quite embarrased. I spent most of the piece trying to avoid the embarrasment by contemplating the wine spreading out, and being chromatographed throughout the linen tablecloth, as it continued to spread, seperating the wine into bands of red and pinkish colors until the water in the wine expressed itself around the edges. I was sharing the table with four other people, and was thoroughly embarassed. And I had been so enjoying pairing my glass of Merlot with some spicy meats on the charcuterie platter. Ah, well. I often play the klutz.

There followed a long piece for piano quartet by Peter Garland: Where Beautiful Feathers Abound. Nice, but did I mention that it was long? I was still contemplating the tablecloth, as the edges of the spill creeped ever closer.

Finally, some Mozart! A Piano Concerto (no. 12 in A major, K.414 – 1782). This was a wonderful piece to enjoy, full of fire, passionately played by pianist Luke, violinists Elizabeth Young and Donna Mulkern, violist Laura Chang, and cellist Ian Brody. This took my mind off of my wine faux pas.

The night was growing long as I arrived home again. I popped a movie in the DVD player to watch Chaos Walking, a Sci Fi epic that takes place on a planet where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the noise” – a force that exposes all their thoughts both audibly and visually. Enter a lone woman arriving to settle on the planet, who crash lands, and does not know what had happened there, and is not herself affected by “the noise”. She was born on the ship during it’s long 65-year journey from Earth. She meets a young man living in a settlement of men, of which he is the only one having been born on the planet itself, and not originally from Earth. He has no experience with girls or women. She has no experience on a planet (and yet, she can ride a motorcycle through a forest). They end up running for their lives. Excitement and adventure. Just what I needed. Above are all of my exposed thoughts today. Such a busy day – perhaps I was avoiding something, or someone, someone whose birthday was today.

Chaos

Tomorrow (Monday) I have another Covid-19 test. I’m back to work on set Wednesday. It’ll probably be a long day. October promises to be very busy – I’ve applied to be on several sets of TV episodes and movies that are being shot all over New Mexico. Long days and nights. Driving to and from Santa Fe, and also around Albuquerque. Camping out in background holding. Staying awake when the day turns to night after 12 or 14 hours. Fun, fun, fun. No, really – I do enjoy it. And I seriously need to be active.

Posted in 2020s, motorcycles, movies, music, My Life, poetry, rambling, wine | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Rambling Man is Back

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 20, 2021

Monday, Sept 20, 2021

Although I have frozen fish in the freezer, refrigerated sqaush, and plenty of rice and noodles, I have decided to make macaroni and cheese tonight. Being a lazy cook, I am using a box of whole grain pasta noodles with a packet of finely ground dry cheese. Seven minutes to boil, drain, add butter and milk and the dry cheese. As always, I add a tablespoon or so of diced green chile, and some fresh grated extra sharp chedder. I also sprinkle a little pepper in there, as I like the flavor it adds, so that’s what I’m eating now as I sit here typing.

Today has been a slow day, but yesterday meant being on set for a small independent movie that a friend who introduced me to movie acting is making, to enter into film festivals. He is quite smart, and his previous movies, although short, always do very well, garnering top awards. I was joined in this endeavor by another friend, someone who has worked for six years as a stand-in/photo double for a major TV show shot in Albuquerque. I was once a stand-in/photo double for a TV show shot here in Albuquerque, but only for the week it takes to shoot one episode.

I’m catching up on my reading, as the last few months have been busy with background extra work, a lot of which I was able to snag, except while I had the covid. As brief as the outbreak was, I still had the virus in me for about two weeks, so, even though I felt great, I couldn’t work on set while testing positive. But that’s behind me now. So far, I’ve tested negative four times in a row. Last Thursday, the 16th, I worked a 14 1/2-hour day on a movie set. This month, so far, I’ve manged to visit an old farm that was turned into a museum, worked Sept. 3 on a totally different TV show, attended a wine festival in Albuquerque on Labor Day, met with my motrocycle-riding group for breakfast and a short ride on the 8th, worked on a 48-Hour Project short film all day Septermber 11, and donated blood platelets on the 13th.

I applied to work on an episode of a production being shot in New Mexico, and ended up with work on Thursday. However, that fell through – such is the movie biz – and I was hired to work Wednesday, with a Covid-19 test tomorow. Even that changed. I will still work Wednesday, but also tomorrow, so I have to get to set and test by 6:00am tomorrow instead of in a range between 7am and 11am. So, I am going to be busy the next couple of days, and make a little money. Background work doesn’t pay much, and you aren’t mentioned in the credits, but I enjoy being on set. I really enjoy it if I get a part in a independent or school-related production, as I at least have lines to go with my actions, and I get listed in the credits. However, they are not seen by many people. But it all goes on my résumé.

I went back for seconds on the mac ‘n’ cheese, so now I’ve lost my train of thought. As you might have guessed, this is one of my “just rambling” entries. No series of photos, no deep introspection, no politics, or storyline. Just me.

I watched a lot of epsiodes of The Prisoner over the weekend, as they were broadcast non-stop. It was such a fascinating show, but only 17 episodes were ever broadcast, between September 29, 1967 through February 1, 1968 in the United Kingdom. I would catch one every once in a while when it was rebroadcast in the U.S. in June of 1968. I could try to describe the show, but as I watched an episode about mind control one evening, a commercial interrupted the drama, as they do on commercial TV. It was such a typical commercial, offering some new product which I would certainly need, and which would improve my life so much. And it was almost the plot of the show, and the theme of the series itself. How happy and content I would be if I only went along, if I’d buy this wonderful crap!

LOGO USED IN THE PRISONER

In The Prisoner, played by Patrick McGoohan, a British agent is abducted just after he resigns his job, and taken to an island from which he can’t escape. McGoohan had previously played a secret agent in the British television series Danger Man, known in the U.S. as Secret Agent. He then co-created The Prisoner, as well as starring in it. (I wonder who his stand-in was?)

Currently I’m reading Mayordomo, by Stanley Crawford, a book written about the systems of irrigation ditches in New Mexico, often referred to as acequias, which are used to divert water from the Rio Grande to the farms along its wide path through the state. They are community run and have been the means by which farming is carried out in a dry climate whose rain and snow falls infrequently, and tends to collect underground. Wells provide drinking/bathing water, but not enough to water all the crops in the state.

I was previously aware of the system before I began working for a winery in 2010. I was then put on ditch-cleaning duty once a year, since the winery needed to provide several workers as part of its responsibilty to maintain the life-giving ditch. It was damned hard work, just as Crawford describes in his book. You arrive, shovels in hand and begin the day-long trek along the ditches that provide water to the whole village, removing debris, leveling the ditch floor, and squaring the sides, so that it holds enough water and doesn’t slop over the sides when the water is released. There are short sections marked out by the Mayordomo, and then you jump into each section, shoveling away, cleaning, smoothing, and chopping, until it is time to move along to the next section. To get to the next section, you go around those still cleaning, up ahead to the next open section and begin again. All day. With a break for lunch. It is muscle-straining, back-building hard work. I did that for those years I worked at the winery, so that we had water to grow our fruit, fruit to pick, fruit to ferment, fruit wine to bottle and cork and label, and drink and sell. I miss those days. The winery shut down December of 2017 after our vintner, Jim Fish, the guy who started it all, died on a hike in the wilderness. A trifecta of sad: Jim’s death, closing the winery, and dumping 6000 gallons of bulk wine.

So now, I still do some hiking in the mountains myself. Perhaps I’ll die there some day. I read a lot. I ride my motorcycle. I blog. I work as background on movie sets. I’ve taken years of acting classes now, working with different teachers, and I get all the experience I can, working on non-paid gigs. It’s a life, and so far it’s been a pretty good one.

I’m done rambling now. There’s work to do: registering on a website to get paid for my background work. Going through my clothes to pick out appropriate clothing, and getting to bed early enough so that waking up at 4am to be on set by 6am doesn’t seem so early.

Posted in 2020s, Coronavirus, motorcycles, My Life, rambling, wine | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

I Would Walk a Mile for Fresh Green Chile. It’s 94°F in Albuquerque, but I Only Had to Walk ½ mi.

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 7, 2021

I walked up to Big Jim Farms for some chile. It was a trifecta of hot: hot day, flame roasted chile, hot on my back. I enjoyed it. You can pick the chiles yourself or just have the already-picked chile roasted on the spot. I got a bushel, about 25 pounds of chile. Roasted, it fit in my backpack. It cost me $30 for a bushel of chile, and $5 for the roasting. You can also get a half bushel for $15.

The farm is having its 1st annual Sunflower & Flower U-Pick Experience. They have a field of sunflowers & other flowers – like Zinnias and Cosmos – in bloom to pick. Thir open-air market has picked produce ready to go, including tomatoes, squash, zucchini, watermelons, peaches, apples, salsa, chile ristras, honey, and specialty hot peppers.

From the end of September until Halloween, you can cut a variety of pumpkins straight from the vine.

8:00 am to 6:00 pm every day @ 4515 Rio Grande Blvd, Los Ranchos, NM (On Rio Grande Blvd just north of the Montaño overpass).

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

Las Golondrinas, a Living History Museum

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 3, 2021

Yesterday I was near Santa Fe, New Mexico and saw a sign for Las Golondrinas, the 300-year-old, 200 acre ranch that is now a living history museum. Since I had my camera with me, I went by. There aren’t too many people wandering around on weekdays, but I should point out that they wave the entrance fee on Wednesdays for locals, something I had forgotten, but it was Thursday, and I didn’t mind the fee. Active-duty military personnel and their immediate family are offered free admission. I visited some places staffed by volunteer docents who were happy to fill me in on 18th and 19th century life in the area. I also visited the old winery, which now has some grapevines being cultivated. Four donkeys nearby rushed over to visit me, and I picked some apples for them. It was a beautiful day.

Click on “Home” below for Las Golondrinas Home page:

Posted in history, photography | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

My Life, On Hold Again – Masks Anyone?

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 24, 2021

Got your shot?

So, after being fully vaccinated (two Moderna shots) in the Spring, I came down recently with Covid-19 anyway. It expressed itself with most symptoms I have read about: sore throat, intense cough, headache, fever, diminished sense of smell and taste, body aches, fatigue, and brain fog. I mean to tell you: I sat down at my desktop computer, and just stared at it. I couldn’t figure out what to do with it, and had only dim recollections of having used it before. I tried this a few times and gave up. I had tested negative for Covid-19 four days earlier.

I get tested a lot because I work as a background extra for movies and TV shows, and they are very picky about being tested and having results before you show up on set. I’ve been tested 35 days for Covid-19 since May, but on August 13, I tested positive after one and a half days of being sick. On Thursday, August 12, the fever had broken, and almost all of the symptoms had disappeared. Yea for vaccinations! They don’t prevent everyone from getting Covid-19, and if you do have it, the symptoms are less, you don’t need to be in a hospital, and you don’t need to be on a ventilator. I found out that they were right on the money about that.

I’ve had flus much worse than this was, and they always last at least ten to fourteen days. I get Covid-19, and I feel great after only two days. There are times when you have to trust Science and healthcare workers and this was one of them. Thank you all.

However, I’ve missed out on a lot. I had a ticket for Salsa Under the Stars, a Salsa concert and dancing at the Albuquerque Museum on the day I tested, so, even though I felt like dancing, I could not go. I had a ticket for a chamber music concert (Chatter Sunday) two days later, and I could not go. Those weren’t so bad.

But then I recieved a message with those magic words to an actor: “You are officially booked.” I was excited. Even though it was only to be a background actor, with no lines, I would have been “An older hotel employee.” No name, but it meant they needed that specific type of person on camera. I fit the bill. I might have actions, and I would feel more like an actor than just set decoration. I would need to test on August 24, and be on set on August 26, so I figured I would have plenty of time to be fully recovered from Covid-19 by then – after all, I had no symptoms at all.

After testing positive back on August 13, I had to visit a hospital emergency room to see a doctor. The clinic I’d gotten tested at (an Optum Primary Care facility on the other side of town) made me test in the parking lot before I could enter the clinic. I was told to arrive one half hour before my doctor’s appointment. I did so. However, after waiting 45 minutes past my appointment time, someone finally came out to test me. I had to wait 15 minutes for the results. I did so. Of course, the result was positive, not what I was expecting, as, for once, I was hoping I had a flu. So, since I tested positive, I could not enter the clinic, even with a mask, even with sanitized hands, or with a face shield. So, I asked them how I could see a doctor. After all, I had a lot of questions. I was told to visit an Urgent Care facility, or an emergency room.

The closest place from that clininc was an Urgent Care facility: NextCare. However, they turned me away. I was told I could not see a doctor there if I had tested positive for Covid-19. I was beginning to feel like a leper. So I headed off to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque (one of the oldest and best hospitals in the state). I had no problem getting seen there, but even with health insurance, I still had to cough up a $75 co-payment. Fine. They tested me using the nucleic acid amplification procedure (aka a PCR test) that is used to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. I had been hoping the previous test was wrong, but, no, this test only confirmed it. I had also been tested for Influenza A & B and was negative for both of those. For the Covid-19 infection, I was offered an infusion of casirivimab and imdevimab, under an FDA emergency use authorization. It’s brand name is REGEN-COV. The procedue is intravenous, and takes an hour. However, the drugs are used to treat symptoms, and as I no longer had any symptoms, I decided against it.

Casirivimab and Imdevimad

Later, I read the fact sheets the hospital had given me. The drugs are investigational, with little known about the safety and effectiveness of using them to treat the symptoms of Covid-19. Possible side effects include an allergic reaction, with all the symptoms associated with a Covid-19 infection or a flu. Another thing is that the use of “casirivimab and imdevimab could interfere with you own body’s ability to fight off a future infection of SARS-CoV-2,” according to the information so stated in the fact sheet. In addition to that, the fact sheet explains, the drugs “…may reduce your body’s immune response to a vaccine for SAR-CoV-2.” Given that I’m still testing positive, I was considering getting the infusion, but it isn’t going to kill off the Covid-19 in my body. And, since it could actually prevent fighting off the virus or prevent immunization by vaccination, I am so glad I did not get the drug infusion.

The production company for the acting job I had taken insisted I fill out an online form about my health. Halfway into that, I was asked if I’d tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within the last 14 days. I said “Yes”, since it had only been a week since my initial positive test. The form immediately told me to STOP. and to come back when I’ve taken care of it. And that’s why I had gotten more tests. So the entire rest of August is out for me with that production company. I will apply for work with other productions, since some only require that I am fully vaccinated, and others want vaccinations and a Covid-19 test as well. Either way, I’m not going to apply until I have a negative test result.

Sigh. Well, it could be worse. Without the vaccinations, I could be on a ventilator in a hospital, fighting for my life. I cannot work on set, attend an acting class, or any public gathering with a positive test for Covid-19. I have already had to cancel a planned Meetup hike in the mountains, and I can’t sign up for any more hikes until I know I’m Covid free. But, when will that be? Again, I feel like a leper.

All that being said, this indicates there is a worse problem: vaccinated people can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and spread it to other people. Many jobs and businesses are now requiring only proof of vaccination, and that only unvaccinated people are required to get tested for Covid-19. The percentage of vaccinated people who test positive for Covid-19 is small right now. But what will happen when those few people are free to spend time in crowded indoor situations? I can’t go any place to be around people, because, even though I’m vaccinated, I know I have Covid-19. What about all those other vaccinated people with Covid-19, some of whom are asymptomatic, or who were only sick for a couple days like I was?

I’m glad to see that mask mandates are coming back. As much as I hate to say it, I think it’s necessary given that some vaccinated people may now have the more infectious Delta varient, and spread it without masks and distancing.

I wore masks, I distanced myself from people. I hadn’t been sick with anything in two and a half years, and got vaccinated. I felt a sense of freedom, confident that I could re-enter society fully. Now, I can’t. On my own again.

(NOTE: a recent study*, published today (08/24/21) indicates that, “Following vaccination with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, antibody responses peaked at around 40 days post-vaccination, with levels beginning to decline after 120 days.” And, “The results of the current (findings), sic, indicate that antibody levels in unvaccinated individuals after infection extended to ten months after infection.” As near as I understand it, while it may be better to fight off the infection yourself for longer protection, you may die first or suffer long-term consequences. I think we’re better off with the vaccines, but it looks like we’re all going to need booster shots until this thing dies out. I suspect that’s not going to happen until at least 90% of everyone in the world is vaccinated.)

*Study results

Posted in 2020s, COVID-19, current events, health, My Life, quarantine, SARS COV-2 | 1 Comment »

Cellars, Frostlines and Eddie Knight

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 13, 2021

I was six years old. My brother was five. I think Eddie was in my class at St. Thomas Aquinas then, or perhaps he was in my brother’s class. I can’t recall now after all these decades. I do remember going to his house, and playing pick-up sticks. It was an odd game, I thought. To play, someone dumped out a can of wooden sticks, about 10 inches long – these days they resemble the sticks used for shishkabob, except these were marketed by many different companies and came in rainbow colors. The object was to try and pick up each stick, one at a time, without disturbing any of the others. As soon a you disturbed the other sticks, your turn passed to the next person. Decades later Jenga took the game a step further, using wooden blocks. If we played any other games, I don’t remember. But I loved to challenge myself with that game.

Perhaps I liked challenging myself too much. We all did those normal things, riding bicycles down steep hills, hanging on long ropes or car tires dangling from tall trees swinging as far out as we could, sometimes over water and dropping in. Sometimes, and this is where the title comes from, we just dropped rocks into puddles to watch ’em splash. Skipping them was fun too, but without the splash.

My brother, me, and Eddie were wandering around one day and found a house under construction. I think it was part of a developement, but we’d never seen a house under construction before. The foundation had been laid, deep in the ground, and the walls came up about three feet above the ground. Some areas have deep frost lines (the depth at which ground water will freeze in winter). You dig below the frost line for your foundation. Otherwise the house will be on shaky ground, and structurely unstable. I believe building in this way is what created cellars. If your house extended below ground, you might as well use it for something. Indeed, some people used it to store food. Cellars used to be shallow, but builders eventually made them deep enough for people to use like any other room of a house where you can stand up and work. Then they were called basements. I think the terms get used interchangeably now. They were handy for placing coal or oil burning furnaces, and washing machines, as well as canned foods and preserves.

So, this particular house had a cellar (or basement) that was likely eight feet down, but the floor of the cellar, almost always concrete, and usually with embedded rebar, had not yet been poured. When we climbed up the sides of the wall above ground and looked down, we saw that, after the recent rain, there were large puddles of water in the mud. Puddles of water? We needed rocks!

There were rocks scattered all over the area near the house’s foundations, so we would look for the biggest ones, and then climb back up the stem wall to drop our rocks into the opening that had been left to add stairs. Apparently, the stairs would come after the cellar floor was poured, likley through that hole. We spent quite a bit of time collecting rocks and dropping them into that hole. The bigger the splash the better, of course. The more we did it, the bigger the splash we wanted.

I had just climbed up and dropped in a nice rock when I saw Eddie place the biggest rock I’d seen all day up onto the floor because he couldn’t get up onto the floor with it in his hands. We were probably only three-feet tall ourselves. Without really thinking about it at all, I ran over, grabbed Eddie’s rock and went back to the hole and plopped that sucker in. Big splash – yea! I was happy about that, but I seem to recall Eddie coming towards me, perhaps he was yelling. I have no memory of what happened then.

The next thing I remember is seeing sky. I was being carried by two people, Eddie’s parents, across the big empty field behind my house. I didn’t feel very good. There was something wet on my face, running into my eyes. I closed my eyes and woke up in my house on a couch. I had no idea what had happened or what was going on. After some time passed a screaming ambulance arrived. “For me?” is what I remember thinking. I was impressed. I’d never been in an ambulance before, or if I had, I couldn’t remember it. After several bouts of pneumomia, I only remember doctors that would come to our house to treat me. I’d had pneumonia as an infant, and was placed in an oxygen tent in a hospital, but I don’t know if that was shortly after my birth or later. Back then, people strived to own a car, because that was how you got to a hospital – ambulances were a very expensive way to travel!

I don’t know why my parents called an ambulance. There was blood all over my face, from a cut over my right eye, which left an obvious scar for many decades. I can’t see it now, probably because my eyebrows have gotten so bushy. I think they were worried about brain damage, or damage to my eye. But, all that I received was a small concussion, a black eye, and a bunch of stitches for such a small cut.

Me, on the sofa in the living room. It seems like I spent a lot of time there recovering.

Unfortunately, I never saw or heard from Eddie Knight again. So, either he did push me, and felt guilty, or his parents didn’t want him hanging out with dangerous kids like me and my brother. I don’t know. I don’t think he meant to push me, but I was right on the edge. I never had many friends in grade school, or high school for that matter. I had six brothers and sisters, and dozens of cousins. We saw each other all the time, and those were the people I cared about. And my parents, aunts, uncles, and my surviving grandmother. Both of my grandfathers died when I was in my early teens, and I’d had very few interactions with them. One was sickly from mustard-gas poisoning in WWII and was often in the VA hospital. The other I saw mostly at Sunday or holiday dinners, and he would disappear afterwards. There was a bar next door. My mother’s mother had died when I was two-years old. She had given me the yellow “Teddy” bear I grew up with, and it had always been special to me. Perhaps I was fond of her back then. I can’t remember her, but from the pictures I saw, she and my mom looked nearly identical in their wedding photos.

These are all four of my grandparents, on the occasion of my parents’ wedding.

Skirts were long, double-breated suits were still in style. The oddest thing about this photo is that the house behind is one half of a duplex unit. I know my parents moved about four times. The last house they moved into turned out to be the other half of that same duplex. My grandfather (you can see two of his fingers missing) had apparently moved out long before, and it was owned by an old woman and her grown son. We never interacted much. Rarely saw them. I doubt they liked all the noise seven kids made playing and the screaming at each other, and my parents screaming at us and each other.

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Music to Sooth and Inspire

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 2, 2021

Chatter Sunday is back! Yesterday was the 4th Sunday that Chatter has returned live. The first Sunday it was back was without the customary espresso barristas, and baked goods, so I hadn’t gone. I attended the July 18 performance, which included coffee, and no mask requirement. This regular chamber music series is held in an antique door store fifty Sundays a year. However, Chatter will be moving to a new location quite soon. Masks were required today.

2014 Honda Shadow Phantom

When I left to go home on my Phantom, I was happy, relaxed, and felt joy to be alive. The weather was a bit cooler than it had been, due to a pending storm. I had been hit by a smattering of raindrops on my way to the concert, and worried that I’d be drenched on my way home, but it didn’t rain anymore until evening. The wind caressed my face and added to my joy.

The concert began with Rising, by contemporary composer Kenji Bunch, a 48-year-old composer and violinist living in Portland, OR. Bunch currently serves as the Artistic Director of Fear No Music and teaches at Portland State University, Reed College, and for the Portland Youth Philharmonic. Allie Norris played violin for this world premiere of Rising.

Kenji Bunch
Allie Norris

She explained that she had to alter the standard string tunings on her violin in order to play it as written. She was accompanied by her partner, who added foot stomping and tamborine. It was interesting, and more than that, furious fun to listen to. Norris adds a lot of passion to her playing.

TOM SCHUCH

This was followed by a peformance by Tom Schuch, who portays Albert Einstein in comedic stage performances. His original piece – Einsteins’s Violin — a Play in Three Movements, was hilarious. He captures Einstein’s voice and patois. He uses his perfrmances to speak about Einstein’s work and the importance of STEM education, and also STEAM education, which has the added A to represent the arts.

Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

After the customary 2 minutes of silence celebration, we were treated to a 1787 viola quintet in G minor. K. 516, written by Mozart. Of note was the spirited playing of Elizabeth Young (NOT the English Queen) thoroughly enjoying herself on violin, along with David Felberg on violin, who programs, plans, conducts, and plays some 60 concerts a year for Ensemble Music New Mexico, the parent of Chatter. Allie Norris and Erin Rolan also joined in playing this piece on violas. James Holland added cello. The beginning of the Allegro mesmerized me. I don’t think I have ever heard anything played like that. It seemed to resonate within my brain. It caught my strict attention immediately, as though I’d been kickstarted. The entire piece, including the Menuetto and Trio. Allegretto, the Adagio ma non troppo and the Adagio – Allegro was captivating. Concerned about the pending storm, I left immediately after the standing ovation we gave the players, but as I mentioned in the second paragraph, it didn’t rain, the sky was cloudy but calm, and the ride was refreshing after all the hot weather we’d had lately.

I don’t know what it is about Mozart, but his music touched me somehow that day.

David Felberg

ELIZABETH YOUNG

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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 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 was not perfectly level and I had to cut off 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. I did a bit of sanding, and completed the job, staining the inside of the door blue. I would have liked to stain the outside blue before varnishing it, but only a clear varnish is acceptable for doors here, as per HOA guidelines. I could have painted it blue with an “approved” paint, but I wanted to see the grain. So, the door is different on each side, and I like it.

So, with the door completed (Hooray), I could finally concentrate on that new cooler. 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 buildings 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.

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, directing 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 from 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 it 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 silicone 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 than 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 switch box 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 position 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 switch box 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, and 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, and I made wine.

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 separate 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 simply 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 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, 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 rollerskate 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.