Random Writings and Photos

Random thoughts and/or photos

The Kilala

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 20, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE TO THE STORY (March 3, 2021)

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

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

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

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

Tiny Screens, Tiny Buttons: Nothing New

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

But all of that I had to do at work. The cost of home computers was prohibitive for most people, and hard to justify. There were Commodore PET home computers in the 1970s, and Commodore VIC-20s and Atari 400 home computers on the market in the early 1980s, but those cost two or three months rent. The Atari 800 cost about $1000, six months rent or more. The cost of MACs was insane. By 1988, I was able to purchase a used DOS personal computer (aka desktop) for myself at home, using student loan money. Mostly I needed it to write papers, because, without it, I had to type. In my classes where I had to type 25-page papers, I was graded on spelling and punctuation in addition to the subject matter. I went through a lot of typing paper and time trying to get my papers perfect. It had a 20MB drive, a 300bps modem (bits per second), no GUI, no mouse. I upgraded software, drives, memory, and monitors constantly over the years. I don’t think many people even use desktop systems anymore – now it’s all iPads, laptops, tablets, phones. Mostly phones. With their tiny screens and tiny buttons. Progress?

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, memories, My Life | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Chatter Sunday Jan. 31, 2021

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on February 1, 2021

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

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

Posted in 2020s, Art, coffee, memories | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Movie Soundtracks For a Solitary Man

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on January 17, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Urban Refuge: Valle de Oro

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 20, 2020

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

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

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

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Such a Dream — C’est la vie

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on December 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Otero Canyon Hike

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 12, 2020

11/11/20 (Day ten)

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

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

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

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

from Ideal Home 2018

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

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

11/12/20 (Day 11)

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

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

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

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

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

So, Day Nine in Santa Fe, Unsequestered

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Santa Fe Sequester, Day 6 (11/7/20)

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

So, I’ll post the poems I read:


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

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

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

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

Life is joy
children music colors smells tastes feelings

stretching running hiking biking playing

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

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

is random key presses
life is life
make it so.



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

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

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

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

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

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

For a time.

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

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

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

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

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SANTA FE AT NIGHT ( 28 + 24 images)

Posted in 2020s, Art, photography, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Sequestering in Santa Fe Day 3

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 4, 2020

Another day goofing off in Santa Fe. My home is less than an hour away, but I’m here until Nov. 12. Being on a feature-length movie set during this Covid-10 pandemic requires strict rules. Wearing a mask and distancing — of course — but also: no to-and-from traveling between “hot spots”, of which Albuquerque is one, because of a larger, denser population and rising cases. And, let’s not forget mandatory testing. So this morning I had to drive to a set for a PCR detection test — it is the gold standard in testing. Results in three days or so. On this project, everyone involved gets such a test once a week. Today was the day. I’m in a hotel near Santa Fe Plaza, but I made the mistake of following the written directions. A native of Santa Fe might have gotten to the testing site in 15 minutes, but it took me longer, because I did not know the way, and I didn’t see what I should have when I turned left or right. I finally gave in and used Google maps and got there a bit late, but within the required time frame.

The tests are scheduled so that groups of people do not show up at the same time — distancing also means spacing out arrival and wait times. The test is fast and simple. Blow your nose lightly first, then, cotton swab up one nostril, swirl it around 10 times, swab up the other nostril, swirl it around 10 times. Done. And none of this sticking it up into your sinuses (which felt like having something stuck into your brain to people in the early Covid-19 tests). The first time I had this done, I got a simpler test so I could get on set for a wardrobe fitting — that test has results in 15 minutes, but it is also known to give false positives sometimes. It is, as far as I can tell, given before anyone can step onto a set each day. The other test is more accurate, but the lag time between the test and the result means that you could have been exposed to Covid-19 in the interim. Anyway, that’s done. Five more days to stay safe until the shoot starts on the 10th. Masks, distancing, and frequent hand washing until then, and then even more stringent precautions on set. Is it worth all that? Well, it’s do all that or don’t have movies at all. Not only do people want to make movies, but people want to watch them, perhaps now more than ever.

So I drove back to my hotel, shucked my coat and changed to short sleeves. That’s how fast the weather changes here. I grabbed my camera and headed in the general direction of the Plaza. I peeked at menus on the way, because I knew I’d want to eat. I found an out-of-the-way Mexican restaurant, and decided not to wait any longer. It wasn’t on the menu, but they agreed to make a three-tortilla stack of enchiladas for me, with two eggs on top (one egg is more traditional here, but I was hungry), and plenty of red sauce and some salsa verde that is not green chili, but a Mexican specialty of tomatillos and a little jalapeño mixed in, unlike New Mexican green chili. Mexicans don’t use our red chili either, they mix jalapeños with tomato sauce. So, “Red or green or both?” means something different to Mexicans and New Mexicans. I passed on the lettuce or beans — every meal I’ve had so far had beans — pinto or black — but I did get some Mexican green rice (a rice pilaf with cilantro, and/or other herbs or peppers, chicken stock, etc.) to go with my enchilada stack.

Afterwards I took a few more photos of things you see in Santa Fe that you don’t see elsewhere, but I was drawn into a wine shop. Wonderful wines from around the world, and I had a good conversation with the wineseller, about what makes a good wine, and some things that don’t work for the long term. Since my step-daughter is taking care of my cats for me while I’m away, I decided to get her something she would like: a Tokaji late-harvest sweet white. She and I made wine for eight years. I have enough wine at my house, so I picked a four-pack of Fever-Tree’s “Premium” Ginger Beer for myself. Although people are fond of using it as a mixer, I like ginger beer for itself, since it, and root beer and birch beer, are briefly fermented like what we just call beer, but without alcoholic content. I do enjoy the spicyness of ginger. (And chili, hot mustard, curry, horseradish, and wasabi). 😉

I cut the photo-taking short because I had my hands full then, and I couldn’t afford to drop a single thing.

Today’s photos:

Posted in 2020s, Art, COVID-19, food, movies, My Life, photography, quarantine, spices | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Sequestered for 10 Days, Day 2

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on November 3, 2020

Well, haven’t we all been sequestered, isolated or quarantined the past eight months? I should be used to it by now. It hasn’t been that bad. At home, I’m able to shop for groceries in person. I’m able to ride my motorcycle around, even ride with my meetup group, as long as we maintain a safe distance. I have had lunch with my step-daughter on her open porch, appropriately distanced. And restaurants are open with restricted low occupancy, outdoor seating, and masks in use except while eating.

But this? I was hired recently to work on a movie set as a background actor (extra), something I’ve been doing now and again for the last five years. It’s been problematic for movies the last eight months, but things are starting up again. A major studio is shooting in Santa Fe, and after many postponements due to Covid-19 — one was due to a false positive detected on set — we are rolling, so to speak. At first, we were to get tested and quarantine ourselves for 3 days, or five days, but it’s at eight days now. So, for me to be on the set, in close quarters with others in this one scene, I had to travel from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and check into a hotel for the duration.

Eight days of “sequestering”? I had no idea what that would involve. I arrived last night and checked in. I was under the impression that the sequestering would not begin until today, so I put my mask on and headed to Santa Fe Plaza, a wonderful park in the center of Santa Fe. It’s a place for festivals and music and there are a few restaurants as well. You can also get the original Frito Pie there in the store that started it all: the Five and Dime General Store, although it was originally a Woolworth’s. Frito-Lay did sue them for using the name, but backed off. Frito pies are a combination of beans, red chile, Fritos, cheese and onions, served there in the Frito bag itself. I’ve had a few. However, last night it was too late to get one. It was invented, but not trademarked, by Teresa Hernandez, who died at 88 this past February.

From The Santa Fe New Mexican

However, at the Thunderbird Bar & Grill, I was able to find some great enchiladas, calabacitas and beans, which I paired with a nice amber beer from the Boxing Bear Brewing Company in Corrales.

Satisfied, I went back to my hotel, not sure whether or not it would be my last venture outside my room for eight days. I was looking at restaurant menus today, trying to decide if I’d use Grubhub, DoorDash, or Uber Eats to get food to my room. The hotel retaurant is closed for the interim, so that wasn’t even an option, even if I could leave my room. It looked like I could get some good food from the nearby Tia Sophias, so I had decided on that when I noticed I had received an email from the casting director last night, in response to my query as to staying in my room the whole time. He said: “The main idea of the sequester is that we can’t have people traveling back and forth between ABQ and Santa Fe…because ABQ is considered a “hot spot”. But we’re not running a prison, we can’t confine you to your room…we just ask that everyone be responsible with sanitizing and washing hands after going out for food, for example.”

Yea! OK. I’m not in prison. I was worried. New Mexico takes the Covid-19 pandemic, mask-wearing, distancing, sanitizing and washing hands very seriously. And so does the movie industry, as they can be shut down if they do not.

But, it is nevertheless an interesting way to experience Santa Fe. No crowds, and very few cars on the streets. In fact, occupancy at the hotel I’m at is quite low as well. It’s odd to see this vibrant, crowded, busy city like this, but with the recent rise statewide in Covid-19 cases and deaths, it is reasonable to do the best we all can to control the infection rate. The production company has tested me three times so far, and given me a bag of essentials: medical-grade masks, KN-95 masks, a face shield, a plastic hospital-type gown to wear over my clothes while in close contact on set (off camera), 2.8 oz of hand sanitizer, a digital thermometer, and packets of isopropyl alcohol to clean the face shield. Thermometer has me at 96.2F, so, so far so good.

I’m now calling this day two* of my Santa Fe movie set adventure, and I’m going to write every day. I cannot say anything about the movie itself, or about the set, or post photos of scenes, people or sets, but I can get some photos of Santa Fe. *(Counting yesterday when I checked in, but did not write)

So, after a bit of a stroll around Santa Fe, I have some photos to post (below). After my stroll, I stopped at the General Store for a Frito Pie. I couldn’t resist. I’d show you a photo, but I was too hungry to stop and take one. And Frito Pies are so good!

A soon as I scarfed that down, I headed next door for an ice cream cone.

But, here are the photos I promised:

Posted in 2020s, COVID-19, photography, quarantine | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on October 27, 2020

The Chesapeake* Bay
200 miles long
is a meteor crater
few people know that.
Home to blue crabs
bass, eel, oyster, horseshoe crab
ospreys, great blue herons,
bald eagles, and peregrine falcons.

Known for its bounty, but now –
fewer crabs, oysters and watermen.
Nutrient pollution and urban runoff
ruined water quality in the bay.
shellfish were “overharvested”
doublespeak for overexploited.

My dad took us crabbing
brother John and uncle George.
Chicken wings
attached to hemp string
wrapped around my wrist
dropped into the Bay.

Blue Crabs are scavengers
they eat anything
snails, bivalves,
other crustaceans, fish, worms,
and sometimes human bodies.

I could feel them tug
from deep below
out of sight.

Slowly, slowly, slowly
I pulled that long string up
too far and they were gone
sunlight scared ‘em off.

A net on a long pole
in my other hand
as I pulled one up
ever so slowly
just, just, just
as they came into view
I’d slide that net under it
sneaky like – they spook easy –
and I kept pulling
until, right ——- there
I had it in the net
too late for escape.

But it had life left
so dump it in ice
flesh-tearing claws
are powerfully strong.

That went on all day
until we had two bushels
of feisty fighting crabs
safely stowed on our skiff.

Later, we’d dump the
lethargic cold crabs
right out on the floor
looking for dead ones
– you don’t eat dead crabs
they might have been sick.

You don’t have much time
they revive quickly
looking for a fight
and they move quickly
on linoleum-covered floors
fun to watch
but dangerous to fingers.

Then we put them into
blue and white-speckled enamel pots
– quart of vinegar in the bottom –
covered them with
cups of Old Bay spice
The crabs were steaming mad
but steamed to red death.

After that, they were dumped
onto tables covered in newsprint
for a family feast
accompanied by beer
and they were delicious.


*The word Chesepiooc is an Algonquian word referring to a village ‘at a big river’. The Chesapeake people, or the Chesepian, were a Native American tribe who inhabited the area now known as South Hampton Roads in Virginia. The Chesepian were wiped out by the Powhatan Confederacy, some time before the arrival of the English at Jamestown in 1607. The Chesepian were eliminated because Powhatan’s priests had warned that “from the Chesapeake Bay a nation should arise, which should dissolve and give end to his empire.”

The chief of all the Powhatan tribes, Wahunsonacock, later known as Powhatan, was so powerful that the English referred to him as a king. You may have heard of his daughter, Pocahontas, who became a bargaining chip. The Powhatan tribes had originally been generous, but they did not have enough of the food that the ever increasing population of English settlers demanded. The English sometimes burned villages in order to force more food from Powhatan, which started the First Powhatan War. The English used Powhatan prisoners to force concessions from Powhatan, but Pocahontas, just as she had saved John Smith a year earlier, was able to arrange the release of the Powhatans. Later, she herself was taken prisoner by the English, and held hostage in order to force Powhatan to give them more food, unsuccessfully. She remained a prisoner until she married English tobacco planter John Rolfe and peace returned, for a time.

Posted in 1960s, family, fishing, My Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

60 Years Ago in My Life, a Catalyst

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on October 13, 2020

I woke up early this morning, shortly after 5 am. It’s a quiet time for me, before the world insists that I pay attention to it. For some reason, I found myself back in 1960.

Roland Tower

My parents had just moved us from Evans Chapel Road, slightly north of the Roland Water Tower, which my brother and I had passed every day on our way to and from the St. Thomas Aquinas School. I had attended that school from the first through fourth grades. Before that we had lived in Armistead Gardens in the northeast part of Baltimore, and before that, it gets hazy. I think we lived with my grandparents for a bit, but my birth certificate lists an address on Gay Street, near the 1782 “historic” Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore. My mom says she shopped there.

At St. Thomas, I had received my “First Holy Communion” sacrament, but I was entering a new phase of my life at this point. Now my church would be St. Anthony of Padua. I was enrolled in the altar boys, which meant serving mass early before school started. I liked the quiet of the sidewalks then, with very little street noise. I never saw any of my classmates going to school, because it was too early. The distance was a bit less than a mile, so it gave me plenty of time to be alone. I had two brothers and two sisters at the time, which would grow to three of each before long. As the oldest child, I was responsible for them and was told I was supposed to be a role model for them, which mostly kept me in line. I take responsibility seriously, but it was noisy and very hectic at home.

I attended St. Anthony of Padua school for four years, during which time I received my third sacrament, Confirmation. There was a test; I had to study to be eligible. It is a ritual rite of passage, dating to the earliest days of Christainity. During Confirmation, you accept the Holy Ghost into your life, and the priest says “Peace be with you,” as you get slapped on the cheek, a reminder to be brave in spreading and defending the faith. The slap was discontinued in 1971.

You might say I was heavily indoctrinated into the faith. In addition to my duties as an altar boy, like running the collection basket around, it included May Day processions, and other ceremonies, in which I got to light and carry the incense, a smell firmly rooted in my brain to this day. But my main job was serving mass, as I said, very early in the morning, in the downstairs church. There were two altars, one in the spacious upper church with the stained-glass windows and the inverted fishing boat shape. The lower altar was tucked away in the dark, low-ceilinged basement of the church, which is where I “served” on those early weekday mornings. My religious indoctrination didn’t end there, for I was also in the Church’s Boy Scout Troop, #178. As a Scout, moral purity was a key ingredient in being brave and trustworthy, so it didn’t take me long to get

my Ad Altare Dei award, a medal, instead of a merit badge. Those early morning masses, though — what a trip! There was a regular group that attended, a much smaller crowd than on Sundays. It seemed to consist of mostly old women, heads covered with a linen doily or some such, a practice dating to the third century, at which time it was no longer necessary for Christian women to be veiled to pray publically. Women, but not men, had to cover their heads, it was said, because of the presence of angels in holy places. So, the simple doily was an improvement over having to cover their entire heads. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) wrote about veiling, “It has also been commanded that the head should be veiled and the face covered, for it is a wicked thing for beauty to be a snare to men.” Until at least the 18th century, the wearing of a head covering, both in the public and while attending church, was regarded as customary for Christian women in Mediterranean, European, Middle Eastern, and African cultures. A woman who did not wear a head covering was interpreted to be “a prostitute or adulteress.” In Europe, law stipulated that a married woman who uncovered her hair in public gave evidence of her infidelity.

But I digress. I guess the reason why this altar boy stuff came to mind is due to an incident that occurred one morning as I knelt with another boy, flanking the priest during the sacramental rite of the consecration of bread and wine. The change of the substance of bread into the substance of the body of Christ and of the substance of wine into the substance of his blood is called transubstantiation. It was not a word I ever heard at that age. My job at this point was to ring the Sanctus bells. One reason for the use of the bells, it is said, is to create a joyful noise to the Lord to give thanks for the miracle taking place atop the altar. Another function of the bells is to focus the attention of those attending the Mass that a supernatural event is taking place on the altar. And, boy howdy, did I ever screw that up one time! (The first time I’d screwed up had been when the priest in charge of us altar boys caught me clowning around while we dutifully waited in line for him to arrive to practice a May Day precessional. In a firestorm of indignation, he had fired me and ordered me to leave the school auditorium. I hid the fact from my parents for a long time, but eventually they found out, and I was allowed to return).

In our church, low Mass was held on week days. A high Mass means a full ceremonial Mass, with music, choir, incense, and a deacon and subdeacon to serve the priest. Low Mass is a smaller affair that usually doesn’t have any music or incense. At low Mass (which, at the time, I stupidly confused with the fact that it was held in the basement), the bells were rung six times by the altar boys. ONE. The priest would genuflect (kneel briefly before the host). RING THAT BELL. This signaled that the host was to be consecrated, and all in the church should kneel briefly as one. TWO. The priest would rise. RING THAT BELL. He called down the Holy Spirit by reciting the epiclesis, a type of prayer for this purpose. The bells also signaled the congregation to rise as one. Then, the priest would genuflect again. RING THAT BELL. This was the signal for the congregation to also genuflect again, as one. Then the entire process was repeated for the consecration of the wine.

Somehow, you’d think that the congregation would have been conditioned enough to kneel and rise on their own, but noooo! I had fallen into a daydream (not uncommon for me) and did not ring that first bell. I could hear the confusion behind me. Some knelt and others hurried erratically to their knees. The Horror! I was embarrassed — hell — I was mortified. I hated to make mistakes, and this was the priest who had fired me and allowed me back. And it was a sacred moment to all. So, a small mistake, easily corrected. I was acutely aware of the next moment when I had to ring those bells – the priest rose – and I couldn’t move my hand! The congregation was in shambles. I could hear people mumbling and jumping up randomly. I was frozen in place (perhaps a precursor to a seizure I experienced in high school?). He glanced at me, I mentally slapped myself, and I got the third ring on time as the priest knelt. Order was restored to the congregation, and to my brain. For the second consecration, of the wine, I was ready, and the ringing of the sacred bells went as they were supposed to. ONE. TWO. THREE. I was glad of that, but apprehensive. I was scared, really. One does not screw up like that in church, especially at the holy altar.

However, I never heard a word about it, from the priest, or from anyone else. I never knew if my parents heard about it. There would have been punishment, but perhaps the priest forgave me? That’s one of his jobs, so perhaps he did. But I’ll bet the small congregation of early worshipers on weekday mornings never forgot it.

By the time I had left the grade school there to attend a public high school, I had been one of the altar boys, along with a cousin, to serve the funeral Masses for both of my grandfathers. Although I was no longer an altar boy, I continued my regular Sunday attendance, and was required to attend Monday night religious classes to further my spiritual education, and ask questions. The answers were not satisfactory to me. They defied all logic. Then, in 1967, I got to spend the entire summer break at Howard University in Washington D.C. attending special classes provided by the National Science Foundation. I studied basic electronics, chemistry, and mathematical logic (for computers), among other things. I was in my real element then. I’d been reading every book of science I could get my hands on from the time I learned to read, and there were plenty at the free libraries in Baltimore. On the first Sunday I spent in Washington D.C. my fellow students (from various high schools) were up and preparing to go to church.

I looked around me, and where I was, and the science I was immersed in, and saw my future. It was a split decision, borne of unanswered questions, bizarre Catholic minutiae, and the realization, I think, that I preferred logic to belief. I stayed in bed awhile, thinking, in that wonderful quiet, of where I was going, and not where I’d been. Over the years I gave a lot of thought to my youthful faith and service, but I never went to mass or prayed ever again. And I have never regretted it. I did not replace my beliefs with another belief system. I dedicated myself to learning and research. I do not equate science with religion. One can have both, but I do not. I prefer facts, logic, and the use of logical experimentation to confirm or dispute facts. And always, questioning everything, even facts. Asking more questions, seeking to know more, and more, and understand the processes of life from fundamental energies, to fundamental particles of matter, and to their interrelationship.

There is more to life than “the energy of a mass at rest is equal to the product of its mass and the square of the speed of light”, but it’s a start. For example, because of the momentum of a particle of mass, the equation is better written as E2 = (mc2)2 + (pc)2, or the square of the amount of energy in a mass is equal to the square of the product of a mass and the square of the speed of light squared, plus the square of the product of its momentum and the speed of light. It gets complicated from there, and you can see why scientists use symbols in place of words. Certainly, as human beings, we are driven often by emotions, and hormones, to do things which appear illogical, including having illogical beliefs in unproven things — religion and love being but two examples. But that’s also life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I will resist any efforts to accept something as fact which cannot be shown to be a fact, as nearly as can be determined, for there is no way to advance our knowledge and culture through belief only.

I know that seems like a long ways off from altar boys and my failure to ring the conditioning bell at the right time, but perhaps that was the catalyst.

Posted in 1960s, 2020s, christianity, current events, Dreams, faith, love, memories, My Life, politics, religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on October 8, 2020

Death comes for us all

even archbishops

shopkeepers and presidents

doctors and lawyers

mail carriers and drivers

writers and moviemakers

actors and singers

men women children

the bright and the dull

animals trees flowers

planets stars galaxies

The funny thing is

once we accept that

that we will die

that it’s where it is

where we’re going



nothing else matters.

It is freedom

to enjoy life

enjoy the journey.

It is no matter

no matter what

it doesn’t matter.

Life just is.

it rains- enjoy

Sun shines – enjoy

flowers grow – enjoy

raving mad lunatics – enjoy

tomorrow they’ll be gone

marching in the streets – enjoy

tomorrow there’ll be change.

Life is chaos






Life is joy

children music colors smells tastes feelings

stretching running hiking biking playing


Life is change – enjoy


change things

make things

embrace all

love all

be all.

We’ll die


isn’t it wonderful?

isn’t it freedom?



right now

we can do anything we want to


is random key presses


life is life


make it so.


Wednesday, ‎June ‎17, ‎2020, ‏‎11:32:40 AM

Posted in 2020s, current events, Life, opinion, poetry, Random Thoughts | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Trump has the Covid-19 corona virus. So?

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on October 2, 2020

Is it just me? Am I bad for thinking that it’s karma coming for Trump? That someone who suppressed the knowledge that the virus was real and deadly, in order not to reflect badly on his Presidency (he claims it was because he didn’t want to panic people). Meanwhile, thousands died. He claims he acted quickly, meaning he stopped travel from China to the U.S., but it was already far too late. And even then, he praised himself for taking action. But there weren’t enough ventilators, or medicines – things he could have been working on quietly (which wouldn’t have panicked people). So much he could have done as leader. But he didn’t act quickly. But he claims he did, and claims that millions would have died under Clinton or Biden. He’s the one who claimed it was a liberal hoax, that it would soon be gone, and it was just the flu. I’m sorry, but I have no sympathy for him. If he gets deathly sick or dies, I feel like it’s “what goes around comes around” for someone like Trump, who encouraged a whole country to not take it seriously, and not to wear masks, and not to worry at all. And took credit for getting it all under control, and said that the country was open for business as usual, and states with Democratic governors who put restrictions on were worse off, even as Republican-led Florida had a resurgence of cases. And, didn’t he say (referring to the deaths) that “It is what it is”? It is what it is, indeed.

Posted in 2020s, Coronavirus, COVID-19, current events, health, madness, opinion, rants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

One Million Dollars is “Very Small” to Donald J. Trump

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 29, 2020

It’s an election year, and as such, there is mud being slung in our faces again. So, while I abhor that fake slug fest, which is intended to, and does distact us all from any real invesitgation into issues, how a candidate perceives them, how they have acted in the past, and how they will act on issues in the future, or react to a crisis, I have to jump on that bandwagon anyway.

From listening to Donald J. Trump, and President Trump, I’ve come to the conclusion that he is nothing but a “con” man, a confidence man: a person who tricks other people in order to get their money. President Trump turned down the Presidential salary, but he has played 279 games of golf while in office, at a cost to us, the taxpayers, of $141,000,000. That’s one hundred and forty-one MILLION dollars. President Trump’s visits to his own resort Mar-a-Lago have cost us taxpayers at least $60,000,000 – sixty MILLION dollars. That is a confidence game.

As a young adult, Donald J. Trump brags that he only borrowed $1,000,000 (one Million dollars) from his father, calling his loan “a very small amount of money”. Really? And what might many of us have done with that kind of money to invest and gamble with, all the while living a rich, worry-free life? Donald J. Trump is the beneficiary of several trust funds set up by his father and paternal grandmother beginning in 1949 when he was three years old. He was a millionaire by age 8. In 1993, when Trump took two loans totaling $30 million from his siblings, their anticipated shares of Fred’s estate amounted to $3.5 million each. How does Trump get away with things like that? He’s a con man, pure and simple, always has been.

Upon Fred Trump’s death in 1999, his will divided $20 million after taxes among his surviving children. So far, Trump hasn’t done an honest day’s work, but he’s rich. He claims he only borowed one million dollars from his dad, but in 1999 he received at least $425 MILLION (in current year monetary value) from his father’s estate. He dances around the truth.

A lot of money came to Trump over the years, but, in 1982 Trump lied about his wealth in order to appear on the Forbes list of wealthy individuals. Claiming to be worth $100 MILLION dollars, his wealth at the time was $5 million, not enough to be considered one of the wealthiest men alive. Trump is a con man. In 2005, people with direct knowledge of Trump’s finances told reporter Timothy L. O’Brian that Trump’s actual net worth was between $150 and $250 million, but Trump then publicly claimed a net worth of $5 to $6 billion. He sued the reporter and his publishers, lost, and then lost again on appeal, because he refused to release his tax returns, despite every candidate for President for the last 40 years having done so, and depsite his claim that his tax returns supported his case. He’s a con man.

From Trump’s television show “The Apprentice,” beginning in 2004 through 2018 as well as subsequent related licensing and endorsements, Trump received $427.4 million. He paid $70.1 million dollars in federal taxes in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He paid no taxes in 2008. When he filed taxes in 2009, he declared over $700 MILLION in business losses and, on that basis, he asked for, AND GOT, a refund of his federal income taxes paid in 2005–2007, $70.1 MILLION dollars, plus over $2.7 MILLION in interest. He’s a loser, AND a con man.

Trump formed his own charitable foundation in 1988. In the first decade of the 2000s, he gave away $2.8 million through the foundation (though he had pledged three times that amount). He stopped personally contributing to the foundation in 2008, though he accepted donations from others. In 2018, the foundation agreed to shut down. It was facing a civil lawsuit by the New York attorney general that alleged “persistently illegal conduct” including self-dealing and funneling campaign contributions. Furthermore, it had never been properly certified in New York and did not submit to the required annual audit. Do we trust Trump yet?

Trump University (also known as the Trump Wealth Institute and Trump Entrepreneur Initiative LLC) ran a real estate training program from 2005 until 2010. It was owned and operated by The Trump Organization.

The organization was not an accredited university or college. It conducted three- and five-day seminars (often labeled “retreats”) and used high-pressure tactics to sell these to its customers. It did not confer college credit, grant degrees, or grade its students. In 2011, the company became the subject of an inquiry by the New York Attorney General’s office for illegal business practices which resulted in a lawsuit filed in August 2013. An article in the National Review described the organization as a “massive scam”. It ceased operations in 2011. Trump is a proven con artist.

Trump University was also the subject of two class actions in federal court, centering around allegations that Trump University defrauded its students. Despite repeatedly insisting he would not settle, Trump settled all three lawsuits in November 2016 for a total of $25 million after being elected President.

Trump claims to be a genius, a self-made man. Con men always lie.

Why on Earth did we elect such a person?

Once elected, he took immediate credit for a rise in the stock market. Since then the stock market has also hit record lows. Of course, Trump says nothing about that, but he credits any rise in the market to investor confidence in him and his policies. Trump took office in 2017 but has taken credit for an economy that was already on the mend since 2010. He took credit for new jobs, but they were jobs that had been lost during the 2007-2009 economic crash, and unemployment was already down from those turbulent times before Trump took office. The pandemic, however, has changed things.

Trump said he would “build a wall” between the United States of America and the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States), aka the United States of Mexico.

There was already a wall in place before he took office. All of the border land itself was already walled with things such as chain link, bollard fence (steel slats or posts), or vehicle fencing that’s shaped like a roadblock. Of the 700 miles of land barrier, only 275 miles of the pre-existing barriers have been upgraded, and only 5 miles of new wall have been added. Mexico did not, as Trump promised over and over again, “pay for the wall”. We, the taxpayers paid for the upgrades. The prototype that Trump posed in front of was never used – it was demolished. Instead, the sections that were rebuilt used simply a taller version of the bollard fencing (steel slats and posts), some of which have already been knocked over by high winds, and can be breeched by conventional power tools. Trump is a con man.

Jan 29, 2020

Why will people vote for him again?

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A Canyon, A Hike, A Plane Crash 65 Years Ago

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 26, 2020

Early in the morning, before the sun has peeked over the craggy hills of the Sandia Mountains that border Albuquerque, is a great time to be in those mountains.

As the sun started to creep over the edges of those peaks and promontories, a cool wind picked up. Later on, it would be 92°F in the city, but right then it was perfect.

Our goal was the scene of the crash of 1955 TWA flight 260, which utilized a cutting-edge Martin 404, with the capacity to hold forty passengers. The company was headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, where I was born four years & four months earlier. I never dreamed that I would live in Albuquerque, or climb these Sandias. I visited Albuquerque a few months before and then moved here permanently a few months after my 26th birthday. But it took me many years, practically to my retirement from the University of New Mexico, before I began hiking in the mountains. My passion back then was riding a bicycle, and it was what had brought me from Baltimore to Albuquerque.

But, enough about me. On February 19, 1955, thirteen passengers and three crew members boarded the TWA Skyliner Binghamton for a short 26-minute flight to Santa Fe, taking off on time, at 7:03 am, before it would head eventually for Baltimore after a series of other stops. But a winter storm blanketed the Sandia Mountains, which top off at at 13,678 feet. And, the two gyroscopic fluxgate compasses on the Martin 404 did not register its correct path. The exact details are not known, but the plane failed to clear a pinnacle called the Dragon’s Tooth by 300 feet, smashing full-speed into solid rock at 7:13 am. No one survived.

It is always with the utmost respect, and a feeling of sadness, that people climb to the the area below the impact, where the ground is still littered with the wreakage of TWA’s Flight 260. At the time, there wasn’t any equipment that could remove the wreakage from an area only accessible by hikers. As of 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act provides protection for any historic site that is fifty or more years old. It is illegal to remove any of the wreakage now.

But, about every five years I make the trek, always amazed at the total devastation of that plane, and the loss of those people. There is a memorial plaque fastened to a piece of the fuselage. There are engine parts, tires, and pieces of shredded airplane scattered over a large area of the very steep TWA Canyon. We had to first hike up steep sections of Domingo Baca Canyon to even get there. It is only a few miles to the crash site, but it took five hours to reach it and return. It was a lot hotter by then.

So, here are the photos I took today, and some from earlier hikes to the crash site.




Some of the information I’ve used here came from a February 2015 article heavily researched and written by Adam R. Baca in Albuquerque the Magazine.

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A Fair Evening

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 22, 2020

It has turned out to be such a good evening. I woke early, made coffee, and drank it as I played solitare and read messages. I had already fed the two cats, and they were reclined on the bed behind me. I was not yet hungry, and decided to nap with them for a bit. After a short while I was up again, surprised that it was still early. I pondered what the day might bring, for I had no great plans: no hike, no ride, no work, no meeting. My kitchen was stocked for the moment, and there was nothing I must clean or clothes to wash. A huge van rumbled into this compound I live in. It seemed out of place with the usual assortment of UPS, Fed-X, postal trucks, or the assorted vehicles of tradesmen. At any rate, the van had turned too soon, near my house, and was backing up and attempting a sharp turn. Nothing happened, but he did overrun the curb a bit. I was worried about the pop-up sprinkler head there, which had recently popped off under the variable water pressure we experience. It had created a geyser thirty feet high and sprayed a large area. I had alerted the proper person, and it had eventually been repaired, but left a large pool of wasted water, which, in a dry climate under a drought, is upsetting.

Be that as it may be, it worried me that it might happen again, and I went out to check. I actually could not find the wayward sprinkler head, as it is flush with the ground when not in use and the grass was thick there, and I discovered, also softer and wetter than the rest of the grass in that area. I will have to notify someone to check it out. However, I noticed that the truck had stopped just slightly past my house, and the driver and a new resident were wrangling some large boxes off of the van. It was not a moving van. It was some kind of delivery service I had never heard of, and I had the impression the boxes were equipment or appliances of some kind – tall, very thick cardboard boxes. Since the virus created a need for space and I did not know the man, I did not go over to satisfy my curiosity.

It was a small diversion from an ordinary day, but on retreating to my house, I decided it was time for breakfast. I sautéd half of an onion, covered it with two beaten eggs and a whole green chili splayed open and covered in cheese. It makes a very satisfying omelet. Hours passed in which I did very little. I finished reading my recent issue of Funny Times, having already read all the cartoons, but not the humor articles. Usually I only have one cup of coffee in the morning, an Americano: two shots of espresso with enough water to fill my coffee cup, but I made another. I was spinning my wheels, aimless, and a bit agitated. Three weeks ago, my motorcycle of nineteen years had been stolen while I slept. It still bothers me. I was able to recover a small bit of money from insurance, and had to take out a small loan to cover the rest, but I replaced the old 1997 motorcycle with a newer one, a 2014. I worry that it will also be stolen, as I have no garage, and nothing to lock it to. The front forks are locked at an angle, so moving the bike will not be easy, and I have put an old U-lock through the rear spokes as well, and put a cover over the bike.

But I feel good, better than I have in weeks, or, really, months. This pandemic, this isolation, the masks hiding our smiles or frowns, the racial tension following even more brutal murders of unarmed citizens by those we hire to protect ourselves — it has taken me further along a downward spiral than I wanted to go. The coming election has the country further divided than ever, with the likelihood of a bitterly contested and ambiguous result, after another month and a half of insults, recriminations, slander, misinformation, and lies.

As writers are known to observe, I digress. As day rolled into late afternoon, I ate a very light meal. I decided I was going to read. My house is choked with piles of books that always accumulate faster than I can read them. I picked another book titled: The Mystery of Dead Lovers, 1951, by an author I’d read before, Maurice Collis. It turned out to be an excellent choice. A traveler comes to a village where he is welcomed with open arms, for it is just past a bountiful harvest time, and all is well. After they have all eaten, there is a play to be presented, and the traveler is entranced into another time and place, which is the story I am reading. The title of the book makes me a little apprehensive, because it is a story of two distanced lovers finding each other, and also great happiness in each other. It is a very enjoyable drama, but with a sword of Damocles hanging over it, so as much as I want to finish it, I also don’t want to, which is why I am taking a long break now.

Tonight I found an old partial bottle of Blue Corn Bourbon in the back of a cupboard, and poured myself a glass to pair with a spicy pork sandwich while I read. The book has taken me to another place, another time, and makes me care about two fictional characters who are like me in some ways, and yet not in other ways. It is a tale, an old and timeless story of two lovers attempting to unite, and finally doing so, but all is not well. Still, I am in a very good mood. I’ve had some wine of late that did not improve my mood, so I am not simply influenced by the alcohol in my whiskey tonight. I am less depressed, able to enjoy the telling of the story, wtih less restlessness. And although I am not certain that I will like the ending, I will not dislike it. It is what it is, I’ve heard it said. Perhaps it is. For tonight, I feel fine, and I can look forward to tomorrow.

Posted in 2020s, comics, Coronavirus, current events, love, motorcycles, My Life, quarantine, rambling | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Turkey Trot Trails at Mars Court

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on September 20, 2020

In a corner of the Manzanita Mountains, a spiderweb of trails and former logging roads winds across meadows and over ridges. Although the trails are accessible from a residential area, and border a U.S. Air Force Base and former bombing range, the views give the illusion of wilderness. My eight-mile hike today. The Manzanitas are sandwiched between the Sandias and the Manzanos in central New Mexico, part of the Cibola National Forest.

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Robber Barons and Trump

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 26, 2020

Unknown Worlds 1943   Robber Baron 2020BlindAlley

Blind Alley (1943-06)

Recently, I watched an old Twilight Zone episode. It is called, Of Late I Think of Cliffordville. It originally aired April 11, 1963. The script was written by Rod Serling, based on the story “Blind Alley” by Malcolm Jameson.

In it, a robber baron of the time (1963) is reprimanded by two characters: Deidrich (played by John Anderson) “I have found you to be, from the moment you came into my office, a predatory, grasping, conniving, acquisitive animal of a man. Without heart, without conscience, without compassion, and without even a subtle hint of the common decencies,” and Miss Devlin (as the devil, played by Julie Newmar): “ Because you are a wheeler and a dealer. A financier and a pusher. A brain, a manipulator, a raider. Because you are a taker instead of a builder. A conniver instead of a designer. An exploiter instead of an inventor. A user instead of a bringer.”

What they were referring to was a character that epitomized the financial geniuses of their day. Those who created no products, invented nothing, designed nothing and never worked a day in their lives, but manipulated, traded, invested, and swindled their way to wealth. They were despised, envied and emulated. Such is Donald J. Trump, and he is known for it. I’m appalled that such a man could become President, and that any reasonable person would even consider keeping him around.

He is nothing else but a robber baron, a predatory, conniving, acquisitive animal of a man. That is his philosophy. Get what you can. Gamble large sums of money that he never earned by hard work. Declare bankruptcy over and over. Stiff contractors. Blow off workers. It’s the “art” of the deal that he believes in – how to win, regardless of how it’s done. He lies, he cheats, he tweets. And he will bombard us all with bogus slams against Biden and all Democrats. “It’s a conspiracy, man.”

Trump is not a leader at all.

He follows radio show hosts and bloggers who make shit up — fake stories – fake news — and they do so to attract listeners and watchers in order to sell products. Trump has repeated, word-for-word, the made-up claims that come from The Gateway Pundit, and also radio host Bill Mitchell. Do you know why Trump claims most news sources are “fake news”? Because he is deflecting you away from any semblance of investigative, vetted news stories, so he can push conspiracy theories as truth, without being called to task for it by journalists whose job is to do so. All he has to do is say something, and claim that it is not being reported by the “fake news.” He can make up numbers, or borrow them from conspiracy pages, and claim everything else is “fake news”. He’s a manipulator, a pretentious con man.

That’s my opinion, and I thought it to be relevant in light of the approaching elections, regardless of political affiliations.

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Republicans Bailing Out

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on August 7, 2020

Bailing Out

Reports show an interesting trend this election year: Republicans, even those previously loyal to the Party, and Conservatives who feel the Republican Party used to incorporate those values, are bailing out just months before the November election. Some will vote for Biden. Some say they will vote for Biden while holding down their bile, while others (like John Bolton) say they will vote for neither, but write in someone else’s name. Many of them are saying the Republican Party has just become the party of Trump and not conservatism, or that the Party itself has been highjacked by people with no regard for the truth, or morals, or the U.S. Constitution. I’m happy to see Republicans with backbone speak up.

I think what we may be seeing is the breakdown of the Republican Party, at least as a major party. Less powerful. Less influential. We shouldn’t have only one set of partisan politicians in charge anytime.

It isn’t the time to form a new Republican party from scratch, but a hybrid party made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents may be close at hand. A party committed to working for the good of the country, and not just a few people, but all of the people, as best we can. A party made up of actual conservatives and ordinary people with liberal values. I suspect that what used to be known as conservative or liberal values have more in common, for honest, patriotic citizens that we’ve been led to believe.  #NewParty

We need to move this country forward, based on those values, and work together. I believe we need, at first, at least one party made up of such people, who are committed to working together even though they don’t agree on everything.  #NewParty

There seem to be too many Republicans and Democrats who believe only their party shall lead or has any answers. That’s never been true, and won’t ever be true. The people who put their lives on the line to convene, and to write the founding documents knew that. That’s why there are three branches of government and separation of powers. That’s why there’s a Constitution, and why there is a Bill of Rights. I don’t believe anyone gave us these rights. Thank God if you must. But the rights we have are those we took for ourselves, those we promise to keep, those we teach our children, and those we enforce for all. If we can’t do that, then this experiment in self-government is over. The rich live like kings now. Shall we let them make all the rules? Make rules that benefit them more than the rest of us? There’s nothing wrong with being rich. We’d all like that. But, I think we’d mostly want that because of the power we’d have. But, really, according to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we have that power. We should use it, and share it.  #NewParty

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A Gorgeous Day Hiking in Jemez

Posted by Ó Maolchathaigh on July 31, 2020

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Drove out through the Jemez Mountains Thursday (July 30, 2020). There are beautiful vistas and red hills and streams and deep woods and hot springs up there. Didn’t make it to any of the hot springs this time, nor stop at any of the funky bars in the village of Jemez Springs, but it was an extremely pleasant day, with lots of sunshine and a steady, cool breeze. It was calming, both physically and mentally. It’s a wonderful part of New Mexico that I have visited and camped at over the last forty-four years. I have really fine memories of the hiking, camping, and fun women I used to hang out with. Memories aside, the volcanic Jemez Mountains are my most favorite place to go in all of New Mexico.

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