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Life’s Little OLD Victories

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on May 11, 2016

Keith Knight is a cartoonist, a really funny cartoonist,

lifes-little-victories

and one of his regular features is something he calls: Life’s Little Victories. It is about those little things, that, on balance, help keep us going. For instance, if you had two pairs of gloves, but you lost one of each pair. Odds are you’re left with unmatching gloves, but when you lose one right-handed glove, and one left-handed glove, so you still have one set (even if they don’t look alike) – Victory!

Thinking about some of the similar things that occur in our “golden” years, as they are oft called, I decided to create a list of life’s little victories that are more specific for those of us in our declining, or reclining, or advancing years.

Life’s Little OLD Victories

1.) When you suddenly remember you have a doctor’s appointment in 15 minutes, but you realize you’re already on your way there.

2.) When you have to go, really, really bad, and you not only make it to a bathroom, but manage to get your pants down, and also sit down on the toilet before your bowels cut loose.

3.) When you can’t afford to get new glasses, but unaccountably, your eyes have changed in the oppposite direction and you can see fine without them.

4.) When the mail carrier updates your package delivery status to “Delivered,” so you know that 10-minute walk up to and back from the mailbox kiosk is worth the trip.

5.) When you’re at the supermarket, and you suddenly remember to buy some essential, and you still remember to pick up what you came for.

6.) When your pension or social security check is a day late, and you think you’ve run out of your prescription medications, but you forgot to take them yesterday, so you still have one more day of pills.

7.) When a speeding car rounds the corner, knocking you down as you’re crossing a dark side street, but the driver stops to check on you, and you didn’t break anything.

8.) When your cardiologist says you’ve reached the point where your cholesterol is regressing to a very healthy level, so you can just keep doing what you’re doing.

9.) When the power is out, and your cell phone is dead, but you’ve written your activity schedule on your old-fashioned paper calendar, and you still have a land line.

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Sending My Name to Mars

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on September 4, 2015

boarding-pass-with-miles-km

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A DNA Vignette

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on April 2, 2010

The synthesis order from Dr. Jella’s lab was taped to my lab door when I arrived, even though I was early. Science marches on, without regard for working hours.  After flicking on the lights, I dropped my lunch bag on my desk in the rear of the lab, under the sealed windows that let in light, but no air.  I turned my PC on.  I wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted to sit quietly for a few minutes, playing Solitaire.  But, I had unfinished orders from the day before, as well as these new orders.  I’d be lucky to synthesize all of ’em by days end. A long day ahead of me, probably ’till 7:00 pm.
I typed the first sequence into the machine: ACGCCCTATTACGACGAAGTTAC.  I could synthesize four pieces of DNA, or RNA simultaneously.  It would take almost four hours for the DNA Synthesizer to complete four oligonucleotides, then I could start the next four. Hopefully, they would finish in time to let me start another four before I went home. Those would run overnight.
I finished entering all the code letters for all of the syntheses, checked the level of the liquid reagents at every bottle position, and started the Pre Run.  Solenoids clicked on and off as current was applied to each one, moving a magnetic rod back and forth to allow the flow of gas or liquid for each step of the syntheses. Click, click-click, click, click-click, click, click, click, and occasionally the whoosh of gas as regulators adjusted the pressure of ultra high purity nitrogen that pushed all the liquids around.  After all the lines were purged of air and old liquids, and fresh liquid flowed from each reagent through all the lines, I started my first batch of the day.  I was happy that I’d had the machine upgraded from the original two-position one.  I’d never have been able to get this much done so quickly.  
I went for coffee, brought it back and sat idly in front of my PC.  I took a few sips while I stared out the window at a clear blue New Mexico sky, then got to work.  I entered the sequences I was making into my database, so I could keep track of them for billing purposes.  My lab was not directly funded by any grants or stipends.  I had to bill each researcher for the work I did, and then they paid me out of their grants.  It wasn’t a hard job.  The machines did most of my work, synthesizing DNA, or occasionally some RNA.  The RNA was tricky, as it required careful handling and sterile conditions.  There are enzymes that destroy DNA and RNA, but of the two, the RNA enzyme, RNAase, was the worst.  If contaminated with RNAase, the RNA I made would be useless, experiments ruined.  Time and money would be wasted.  I would lose credibility.  I was very careful in my work.
Besides the work synthesizing, I had other jobs: two of which were either synthesizing proteins or sequencing them.  In sequencing, the machine took each protein apart, one amino acid at a time and pumped it past a detector to identify it by its characteristic wavelength.  I didn’t have any orders for protein synthesis today, fortunately, because the process consumed a lot of time, and required constant monitoring. The final step in protein synthesis involved the use of a dangerous, highly corrosive acid in gaseous form: HF, or hydrogen fluoride.  HF is used to etch glass. Due to its insidious nature, it can splash undetected on your skin, and slowly eat its way to the bone. I hated working with HF.  People using it had lost arms, eyes, lungs and some had died.  I had to prepare a super cold bath of dry ice and methanol to cool the gas into liquid form for use.   When I opened the valve on the HF bottle, everything had to be ready: I wore a special apron made of acid resistant material over my lab coat, and wore similar gloves.  I had a special clear shield over my entire face, and the apparatus for using the HF gas was shielded behind a glass-sashed fume hood.  In theory, the gas flowed into my collection vial, liquefied, and cleaved my synthesized protein off of the glass beads it was attached to as part of the synthesis protocol.  Then it flowed through a trap of strong base to neutralize the acid. 
The first time I had tried the procedure, my boss at the time had worked with me. Dr. Latif was from an Arabic family, but had grown up in Trinidad, been educated in England, and had worked for the Mayo Clinic.  He was an interesting guy, full of stories about his parents and Trinidad.  Oddly enough, we were the same age, and liked the same kind of music, rock ‘n’ roll and Motown.  I needed music playing to get me through the day.  In today’s world, an iPod would have sufficed, but in those times, the music came from my radio/tape player and coworkers needed to like the same music for that to work.  Dr. Latif and I were suited up in our protective gear, and we switched on the gas.  All looked well at first.  The gas was cooling into liquid form, and flowing through the simple apparatus.  Suddenly the plastic container of strong base began to implode.  It made no sense.  We had followed all the instructions perfectly, and the pathway of gas was clear.  For some reason, it was back flushing, collapsing the trap.  We couldn’t just shut the gas off, because we feared the trap would either backflush into our protein mixture, or worse, rupture, spreading gas and caustic base all over the place.  Without losing our cool, we increased the pressure of a secondary gas, simple nitrogen that also flowed through to help keep the HF moving.  We opened the exhaust stopcock all the way. Success.  The plastic trap re-inflated.
After the experiment was over, we both let out of sighs of relief.  The danger had been very real.  We laughed too.  We were the only ones who knew the danger.  If the HF gas was released, and even if we’d gotten away safely, that floor of the building would have been in danger. Likely the entire building would have to be evacuated and sealed off.  We’d have needed a HazMat team, police and firemen.  It would have been a mess and created havoc.   We worked out our own procedure after that, and never had any further episodes.

Today, my first four oligonucleotides were finished synthesizing, and I took them off the machine; they would require a minimum of five to eight hours heating to be ready for purification next morning.  I was readying the machine for the next set of orders when Dr. Jella rushed in.  He looked anxious. He wanted to know if his DNA was ready.  I almost laughed.  Even if I had synthesized his orders first, it would still require heating and purification.   I told him that I could put his order ahead of the others I was about to start, and explained the time constraints.  He was so anxious looking that I told him that if it was for a critical experiment, and he needed it right away, I could stay late, even work all night to have it ready for him by morning.  He thought about that for a bit, but shrugged his shoulders, saying, “No, that’s alright. I can wait until tomorrow. It’s not, uh, not for anything real important.”  Turns out it was, but he didn’t want anyone to know what he was working on.
Later, I found out that reporters had been cold-calling various researchers, pumping them for information for a story.   Dr. Jella was working on the newly hot disease: hantavirus. The disease had flu-like symptoms, and people in New Mexico had died within days of showing symptoms of what everyone thought was a cold or flu.  A test for hantavirus was needed as soon as possible.  Researchers were working across the country to develop such a test.  Dr. Jella had the idea of creating a kit, using synthetic fragments of single-stranded hantavirus DNA.  If he had told me what it was for, I’d have gladly worked overnight. As it was, research is a highly competitive business.  Researchers across the country, especially at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, where also racing to develop a test. Whoever developed an effective test first would not only get recognition, but would be able to grab new research money to continue their work.  Dr. Jella didn’t want word to get out of the specifics of what he doing.  Someone else could take that information and receive the credit, not to mention future grant money to research other diseases.  Basically, his job and life’s work was on the line.   
I arrived for work an hour early next day, and purified Dr. Jella’s oligos first.  Needless to say, he was at my door soon after.  “Are they ready yet?” he asked, somewhat breathlessly, like he had run up the stairs.  I told him they were synthesized, and purified, but I would need another two hours, at least, to dry them down. A lot of water is used in the purification protocol, and I used a freeze-drying apparatus to evaporate all of the liquid. That made it easy to reconstitute the DNA to the desired concentration for experiments.  He looked very disappointed, but I promised him I’d bring the DNA to his lab as soon as it was ready.
Later, I found out that he was using the DNA I had synthesized for the hantavirus kit. It worked, and his kit is now used to detect hantavirus.  I got a mention in the paper he wrote describing the experiment.*  That was unusual. Most of the work I did went unacknowledged. Sometimes the lab itself was mentioned.  Most of the time, I went about my days synthesizing, sequencing, analyzing, purifying, and running the lab itself, buying materials, and billing the researchers. They paid me.  It was a good living.

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*(Rapid and specific detection of Sin Nombre virus antibodies in patients with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome by a strip immunoblot assay suitable for field diagnosis).

Posted in 2000s, medical, My Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cimarrón Nuclear

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 29, 2008

cimarronnewmexico.jpg Cimarrón obstensibly takes its name from the wild snow-fed river which begins there, in northeastern New Mexico, and flows 698 obstinate miles to the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, but cimarrón is also a Spanish word meaning wild, or willful.  It describes an unbroken animal or a wild man, or wild woman (cimarróna).  At one time it was applied to slaves who freed themselves (cimarrónes).

Charlie Morris saluted the first day of June, 1872 with a beer, although the sun had just recently risen over the nearby peaks. Joyce was still asleep upstairs. She and Charlie had been up late drinking, but he hadn’t been too tired to put Joyce to sleep with a smile. They had ridden down the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail from Raton to the St. James Hotel in Cimarrón three months ago. Joyce’s husband, Chunk Colbert, was a gambler, mean and vicious but seldom at home. Racing horses went well with his love of gambling, and his gun had often been used in anger. Which is why Charlie and Joyce had left town. They must have decided that a hundred miles was far enough away, or else passion simply overruled their common sense. Chunk found his wife missing when he returned one day, and he was able to find out where she had gone. On that same June morning that Charlie sat drinking a beer to clear his head, Chunk walked from the bright sunlight into the saloon in the St. James. When his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he saw Charlie Morris.
“Morris,” he said, in a voice that could stop a wild horse, “you got something that belongs to me.”
“What could that be?” Charlie asked, spilling beer on his fine grey vest.
“My wife!” Chunk said, and shot Charlie dead.

This was two years after Lucian Bonaparte Maxwell, son of an Irish emigrant from Dublin, sold most of his holdings in the largest individually owned piece of land in the United States, of which Cimarrón is a part, to three Englishman. The Maxwell Land Grant was originally obtained as a Mexican Land Grant by Charles Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda, for assisting the Mexican government’s attempt to exterminate the Indians in its “Northern Province.” Maxwell married Beaubien’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Almost two million acres that had been stolen from the Ute, Apache, and Comanche eventually ended up in Maxwell’s hands.
In all its sordid history of gunfights, murder, and land wars, and after the railroads had come and gone, and the gold rushes were over, Cimarrón endured. The gold and coal are gone, although the timber industry and the Philmont Scout Ranch breathe life into the area. People still struggle to survive, and some still dream of the old days of greed and wealth.

In 1977 a new schemer came to Cimarrón. Bill Dufess came with a luxurious double-wide, and a lot of spending money. He was soft-spoken, and, as representative of a new industry coming to town, he came, he said, “to stay.”
Alicia, as mayor pro tem, ran the town while the mayor was busy logging in the mountains. The rest of the time she ran her beauty shop, cutting and perming and dyeing. She worried about paying off the trailer she lived and worked in. As she teased Margarita’s hair, she thought about how tired she was. It was demanding running the shop on her own, but at least she could support herself and her kids. She hadn’t just rolled over and died, or gone on welfare when her husband ran off with with that Albuquerque woman. She had borrowed some money and started her own business. She stopped what she was doing for a moment to clean her glasses, and brush sweaty hair out of her face.

“Margarita, are you going to the matanza at that Dufess fellow’s place?”
“I haven’t decided, but I hear there’s a lot of free beer.”
“Oh, and everyone’s invited, everyone around here.”
“That’s about a thousand people! Does he really have enough food for everyone?”
“Well, his company does seem to have a lot of money. That new double wide trailer of his sure cost a lot of money.”
“What about that dump his company wants to put in, Alicia? Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“I don’t know. Mayor Burns said he thought it was a good idea before he left for the timber harvest, but I’m not sure this guy Dufess is on the up-and-up.
“I hear there won’t be any smell, or anything. It’s not like a regular depósito.”
“That’s because it’s for residuos nucleares.”
“Oh my! You don’t think it will blow up?”
“Margarita! Really! Just because the hands on your old watch glow in the dark doesn’t mean they’re going to blow up, does it?
“Well, I suppose not, but what has that…”
“The hands glow because they’re radioactivo.”
“Oh. Then I suppose it’ll be alright.”
“Maybe. There. All done. Take a look.”
“Oh, eso es bonita, Alicia. It’s just beautiful.”
“Thanks. I try my best.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Alicia. Are you sure you don’t mind waiting for your money?”
“I’m sure. Go on. I’ve still got to close up.”
Alicia closed out the register and put the money in the bank bag. “I’d better not forget to take this tomorrow,” she reminded herself, “I don’t want that trailer payment to bounce.” She swept the floor and took the trash out to the garbage. “I wonder,” she thought, “what radioactive garbage looks like?”

Alicia had promised her kids that she’d take them to Santa Fe to see the Star Trek movie. She was more than a little curious herself, so she closed the shop early one slow afternoon. She’d seen some of the T.V. shows back in the sixties.
“And they’re just making a movie now?” her son had asked.
“Es verdad, mi jito. From before you were born to now, it’s been a long time, no?”
“It’s my whole lifetime. Can we have popcorn?”
“Sure you can, Roberto. Now, go and get your sister for me. We have to get going.”
“Ana! Aaannaaa!”
“Roberto! If I wanted you to shout, I’d have done it myself. Now go and get her. Vamanos! We don’t want to be late.”
They drove in relative silence. Alicia had insisted that her kids bring along something to read, and they had contained their excitement fairly well, even though they didn’t get out of Cimarrón very often. The twisting, potholed road between there and Santa Fe distracted her attention from the red sun-burnt cliffs that poked into a blue porcelain sky.
As they neared the theater, Alicia could see people lined up all the way around the corner.
“Oh, no, kids, there’s a long line. Maybe we should have waited until it came to Taos.”
“That’s OK, Mom, we’ll get out and get the tickets. You go ahead and park the car. We’ll wait for you,” Roberto promised.
That kid, he’s something, Alicia thought as she walked back to the theater from a street three blocks away.
“Excuse me ma’am, would you sign our petition?” asked a balding man in torn blue jeans. He had a red bandanna tied in a tight ring around what was left of his long hair.
“One of those Taos hippies,” Alicia thought as he pushed a clipboard toward her. “I’m sorry, I don’t really have time now.”
“But it’s about nuclear waste, ma’am. Do you want them to bury nuclear waste in New Mexico? Do you want your kids to be exposed to radiation?”
“What? Where? Do you mean Cimarrón?”
“Uh, no ma’am. I’m talking about down in Carlsbad. The government plans to ship radioactive waste from all over the country, and the world, into New Mexico, and bury it in Carlsbad.”
“Listen, I really have to run. Is there a number I could call to find out more about this?”
“I think there’s a number on the petition. I don’t have any information myself, I’m just taking the petition around. Here, you can have one. There. There’s the number.”
“Thanks.”
The following week, Alicia called the number. It wasn’t a local number, it was in Albuquerque. “What the hell,” she decided, “maybe they have some good information.”
“STOP. This is Colin speaking.”
“Stop? Stop what?
“Stop the dump, that’s what. No, really it stands for Stop Threatening Our Planet. Could I help you?”
“Yes. Can you send me some information about nuclear waste?”
“Of course. Do you mean general information, or something technical?”
“Well, I suppose I need general information. There’s a company that’s planning to put a waste dump here and I need to know more about it. People have been coming into my beauty shop and asking me questions, and I don’t have the answers.”
“Are you calling from Carlsbad?”
“Oh, no. This is Alicia Seria, from Cimarrón. I’m the Mayor pro tem here.”
“The Mayor! Alicia, I’ll be glad to send you any information you need. Would you tell me more about this waste dump? This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
“Oh, good. I was afraid you were only concerned about Carlsbad.”
“No, not at all. We really don’t want radioactive waste traveling on New Mexico highways, or buried here.”
“From what I’ve seen of the roads around here, it wouldn’t be a good idea. Oh, by the way, I’m just the temporary mayor.”
Colin got all the information he could from Alicia. As soon as he hung up, he was back on the phone to alert the membership about this new problem. The next potluck meeting of STOP took place four days later. Charlie, one of the three coordinators, brushed bread crumbs out of his bushy red beard and called the meeting to order.
“Attention people. Most of us are finished eating, and we have some business to get to. Bring your drinks and deserts. Colin, you’re first on the agenda.” Nine people formed a ragged circle on the floor.
“Uh, well, as some of you know, we got a phone call from the mayor of Cimarrón. Apparently, a Texas company called Nuclear Futures wants to build a waste dump there.”
“Colin, I thought all the waste was supposed to go in one place?” asked Edith, the gray-headed professor’s wife.
“This is a private company, Edith. The Carlsbad site is a federal project. Nuclear Futures is planning a commercial dump. From what I, uh, understand, waste producers will pay them to accept their waste. And, listen to this, the waste will be in 55-gallon drums piled in shallow trenches and just covered over with dirt.”
“Wow. That’s pretty heavy,” said Ken, the cement factory unionist. “It sounds like another Love Canal in the making. What do the people in Cimarrón say about that?”
“Well, uh, the mayor, I mean, the acting mayor, told me that most people don’t know anything about the possible dangers. There’s this guy, Bill Dufess, who works for United Futures, who’s moved to Cimarrón. He says he’s planning to live there permanently, and he threw this big matanza last Saturday with all the food and beer people could want.”
“What does the Mayor say? Hey! what’s her name?” Charlie asked.
“Alicia Seria.”
“What does she want?”
“She’s afraid that this Dufess character is snowing people with all that beer and barbecue. She’s worried about the dump and she thinks people are afraid to question it.”
“What can we do?” Charlie asked.
“She’s asked us if some people could come up there with some information, and maybe debate this guy. I’ve already talked to George at the Albuquerque Resource Center and they have some movies we could take up there, and George wants to debate this Bill Dufess guy.”
“Won’t there be hearings?” asked the feminist-anarchist.
“No, none at all, Paula. George told me that New Mexico is the only state in the nation without some form of permitting and licensing for, uh, landfills.”
“I want to go up and meet Alicia and Dufess. Does anyone want to go with me?” Charlie asked. Three hands shot up.
“OK, let’s get together after the meeting and make arrangements. We’ll be able to report on what’s happening up there by the next meeting.”

“Alicia, can you give me a trim? I want to get rid of all these split ends.”
“Be with you in just in second. What, Ana?”
“Mom, can I go over to Monica’s?”
“Did you finish your homework?”
“I finished it at school.”
“OK, jita, but don’t forget to be home in time for dinner.”
“I won’t. Bye, mom.”
“Now, let’s get to those split ends, Effie.”
“What do you think, Alicia? Do you think I should shorten it like yours?”
“Oh, no. Your hair’s much too pretty this way. I’ll just give you a trim, and a shampoo, and you’ll see, you’ll like it.”
“Thanks, Alicia. I trust you.”
“How’s your boy doing, Effie?”
“Oh, real good. I didn’t think he was ever going to pass the fifth grade, but he’s much better now. You know, they have to learn so much these days. Sometimes I don’t know how they manage at all.”
“Yeah, my Roberto knows more than I do, I think. Sometimes I look at his homework, and I can’t make any sense of it. By the way, Effie, what do you think of this waste dump Dufess’s company wants to put in here?”
“Well, Alicia, I hear you’re against it?”
“Oh, not really, not yet. I’m just not real sure. I’m afraid of what could happen if one of those trucks carrying the waste were to turn over. Remember when that propane truck crashed on the old highway? We almost had to evacuate the town then.
“What can you do, Alicia? If they want some old dump here, I don’t think there’s much we could do about it anyway.”
“Turn your head a little, Effie. And don’t you be so sure about that.”
“What are you up to, Alicia?”
“Well, Tony and Eloy were talking about having a big town meeting. I thought I might invite those people from Albuquerque to come up and debate Dufess publicly, and maybe show a movie or something like that.”
“People sure are talking about that dump since you started asking questions.”
“I just got so tired of hearing only one side of it. All those slide shows of Dufess’s. And all that beer and barbecue of his makes me think he’s trying to buy us, and I kind of wonder why. Come on over to the sink, so I can rinse your hair.”

“Can we hear a report from the people who went to Cimarrón? Colin?”
“Oh, I talk too much all the time. Why don’t we let Charlie tell you about it?
“Charlie?”
“OK, sure. We met at that guy Bill Dufess’s trailer. He had this real slick slide show about the dump, about how safe it would be, and how people would benefit. It was real convincing.”
“How many people were there?”
“Not very many, Paula. Most of the townspeople had seen the slides already. But Alicia was there, and this one guy who’s all for it, and there were a couple of people who just watched, and didn’t say anything.”
“So what was accomplished?”
“Not much, but Alicia did say that some people are planning a town meeting, and we’re invited to come and present our information.”
“That’s great Charlie! You know, since New Mexico is hosting the Desert Alliance meeting next month, do you think it would be alright to have the meeting in Cimarrón? That way we could maybe combine our meeting with the town meeting. It would be a real good way for the people in Cimarrón to find out what’s happening in Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado. And I think the Alliance members would like to see Cimarrón.”
“Paula! That’s a great idea. What does everyone else think?”

Everyone thought it was a great idea, so Charlie asked his lover, Rosa, if she would go too. She said no, she didn’t want to go, and that she had things to do that weekend. Charlie didn’t like that. He and Rosa hadn’t done much together lately. She had her writing and he had his STOP meetings. They both held the same opinions of nuclear waste, but Rosa had her own ideas about what was important, and that was editing an anti-nuclear newsletter. Charlie felt that the petition drive that had been going on for the past few months was too important to abandon, so they had found themselves alone at separate meetings. Well, I’ll just have to go by myself then, he decided. Damn! This isn’t how I thought it would be when I moved here. I was going to start a family, and Rosa and I were going to make the world a better place for them. And she still doesn’t want kids yet. Can’t say I blame her, I don’t make much money fixing sidewalks and block walls at the University. Charlie didn’t have too much time to talk to Rosa, and convince her to go. He was spending nearly every night at the STOP office trying to coordinate things for the meeting in Cimarrón. He thought about Joyce, in Nevada. She was a lot of fun to talk with at that first Alliance meeting in Colorado. Too bad we only talked. I’d better write to her.

As busy as Alicia was, she arranged most of it. She convinced the town council to let the Desert Alliance use the community center. “Some of those anti-nuclear kids could even sleep there. And Tom and Sheryl have offered a couple rooms at their motel. I hope those people in Albuquerque bring their projector. I’ve been telling people that we’re going to have movies. That should get ’em here.” She knew that the out-of-towners would bring their own food, but she had still convinced Margarita, Effie, and a few others to bring a dish for the town meeting.
Outside Alicia’s trailer, it was snowing. “They’d better bring warm clothes,” she thought. “I’ll get John at the store to donate some coffee and tea. Oh! And I’d better remember some sugar and milk too. This is exciting! I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ll bet we can stop these Nuclear Futures people.”

Two carloads of people, armed with a movie projector, maps, leaflets, and pamphlets, left Albuquerque on a clear sunny morning for battle in Cimarrón. The first car left before dawn. Charlie drove the second car, which gave him an excuse to sleep a couple hours more. He didn’t talk much on the long drive up North, he was thinking about Joyce. He knew she was coming, and Rosa had insisted on staying home. From Joyce’s reply to his letter, Charlie felt that the possibility of sharing a bed or a sleeping bag with her were pretty good. It would help make this weekend more interesting, he thought. There’s probably no way we can stop that Nuclear Futures company. Shit. Two years we’ve been fighting that waste project in Carlsbad, and we’re no closer to stopping it. All those damn hearings are such a damned waste of time. We’ve got twenty thousand signatures on petitions, and all the polls show that the majority in the state are against it, and still the feds won’t listen. The Governor said he would stop it when he was running for office, but now the federal boys have made it a dump for military waste. National Security, my ass.

As Charlie pulled onto I-25, to head north, Alicia was already open for business, hoping to finish early so that she would be available to greet people and get things set up. She had an early appointment with Ruth Mondragon, so she turned the heat up to warm the front room beauty parlor. She had fed the kids, and they were already watching Saturday morning T.V. in her bedroom. With a cup of coffee in her hand, she sat down by the phone to call people and remind them about tomorrow’s meeting. She had managed to get five calls done when Ruth arrived.
“Buenos dias, Alicia!”
“Well, good morning to you too, Ruth. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“I sure would. It’s cold out there.”
As she was finishing Ruth’s perm, the phone rang.
“Morning Alicia. Cold enough for you?”
“Hi Cicero, what’s up? I hope we won’t be getting any snow today?”
“No, not as far as I’ve heard. Reason I called was to let you know that there’s some people parked outside my store. I think they’re the people you’re expecting.”
“Oh my goodness. Are they here so early? Thanks, Cicero. I’ll see you tonight. Bye.”
Ruth started to get up. “What’s the matter, Alicia? Is something wrong?”
“No, don’t get up. But could you do me a favor, Ruth? Would you take this key with you when you leave and open up the hall? And tell people I’ll be by soon, and that I’ll be bringing coffee?”
“Si, claro! I’m as much against this crazy dump as you are.”
“Thanks, Ruth. Well, let’s get you finished. I didn’t know you felt that way, Ruth. Didn’t I see you laughing with Dufess at his barbecue?”
“O Alicia, I’ve never been one to turn down free food. But I’ll tell you one thing, I sure was surprised to see where they intend to dig those trenches.”
“Here, let’s rinse you off. Why’s that, Ruth?”
“Why, that area floods. It’s been a while, but I remember a time about twenty years ago when two whole feet of topsoil washed off of there and it made a mess it took weeks to clean up.”
“Is that a fact?”
“It sure is. And that viejo of mine told me that his abuelo used to have a house over there years before that, but it got washed away.”
“No kidding? His grandfather lost his house there?”
“Verdad.”

Charlie turned his collar up against the cold damp of a Cimarrón morning as he got out of the car, and asked Colin: “Where are we supposed to go?”
“I don’t know, exactly. There’s some cars over there by that store. Pull up close, let’s see if we know anyone.”
A foggy window was rolled down.
“Colin! Charlie!”
“Hi Jim, you beat us here. What’s happening?”
“Well, I don’t know. I’ve been here about thirty or forty minutes. Got a cup of coffee from the store here.”
“Anyone come with you?”
“Yeah, there’s three more of us from Colorado here.”
Another car drove up.
“Hi guys.”
“Hi Ken.”
“Hey, I just came from the hall where the meeting will be. Someone unlocked the door, and she said that Alicia is bringing some hot chocolate and coffee, and we should meet her there.”
Charle helped Alicia start the coffee and hot water on a table by the door of the church hall.
“How are things going, Alicia?”
“Real good. If the weather doesn’t get too bad, I think we’ll have a good crowd tomorrow. A lot of people have promised to come.”
“Is Dufess coming?”
“Oh, yes, he said he’ll be here. And he’s bringing a film of his own, just for balance.”
“Oh, no.”
“It’s alright, that was the only way the town council would approve. They thought it was only fair, since there’s going to be a debate.”
“Well, that makes sense. I suppose it’ll work out. We’ve got the projector. I’ll be showing the movies. Anything I can do?”
“No, not a thing. You go ahead and join people.”
“Charlie took a cup of chocolate and walked into the large hall. Leaning against the stage was a familiar figure. Actually, the figure was not as familiar as the face. It’s Joyce! “Hi Joyce,” he called. She didn’t look the same. I know it’s been six months since I’ve seen her, but still, either she’s gotten a lot fatter, or she’s pregnant, he thought. He crossed the hall and hugged her, gently.

“Joyce, it’s nice to see you here.”

“It’s nice to see you too.”

“No, not just that. I mean, I was thinking about you all the way up here, hoping you’d be here.”

“You know, I was thinking about you too.”

“You were?”

“Well, yeah, ever since that time we went to that meeting in Coloado.”

“I remember. We stayed up half the night talking.”

Joyce looked away amoment, then said, “I got turned on that night.”

“Well,” Charlie said, searching for words.

“Well, yourself. I’d want to talk to you when we get a chance. I didn’t come all the way from Nevada just for this meeting, you know.”

“You look different.”

“Well, yeah. I’m pregnant.”

“No shit. That surprises me.”

“Yeah, it was a surprise to us too. We hadn’t planned it. Harry always said he didn’t want to have children, and I thought about an abortion, but now that I’m pregnant, he seems to like the idea.”

“Uh, oh, here comes Harry, he follows me everywhere. I don’t know when, but we’ll talk. Harry, this is my contact in the Desert Alliance that I’ve told you about.”

“Glad to meet you, Charlie. Joyce has told me a lot about you.”

Charlie shook Harry’s hand. He was very thin, but quite strong. Must be a vegetarian, he thought. “About me?” he asked.

“About STOP, mostly, and about Albuquerque. You send her a lot of information about what’s going on around here. It’s a lot more than we’ve been able to do about underground testing in Nevada.”

“Maybe you should think about moving here, Harry.”

“That’s not a bad idea, maybe we should.”

“Now why did I say that?” Charlie wondered.

Later, when everyone had arrived, Alicia announced that there were rooms at the Blue Sky Motel that were available for some people, but the rest would have to stay in the hall, itself. Charlie opted for the hall. He wanted to stay where the most people were, and he had brought his sleeping bag. After a day-long meeting with the Desert Alliance members, he had packed up his paperwork and gone to bed while the others were drinking at the bar. He didn’t feel very sociable, and besides, he didn’t drink.
As he was dressing the next morning, Joyce found him alone in the back room where he and a few others had slept.
“I guess I overslept.”
“I’ll say, everyone is already up. They’re having breakfast.”
“Where did you stay last night?”
“Harry and I stayed at the motel. Ooh, that bed felt sooo good.”
“It’s nice to see you.”
“I’m glad I found you. I didn’t know if we would ever be able to be alone.” Joyce moved closer to Charlie, looking at him, watching his eyes.

“Me either, ” Charlie said, and ran his hands through Joyce’s long hair. His hands felt hot.

“Hmmm, maybe we don’t really need to talk,” Joyce said, pushing her head against Charlie’s hand. He kissed her lips, and then her neck. Joyce put her arms around him, and pressed against him.
“Mmm,” Charlie said.

“You said it,” Joyce answered while she took off her coat.
Charlie ran his hands over her nipples and around her breasts.
“Whew! It’s getting hot,” Joyce said, as she took off her flannel shirt. Charlie responded by removing his shirt.
“Maybe we’d better not waste any time,” Joyce suggested, “We don’t know when someone might come in.”
“Are you sure it’s OK? Joyce? We won’t,” pointing to her stomach, “bother that?”
“Oh, no. The doctor told me I can have sex, but Harry hasn’t wanted to since I started to show.”
Charlie stripped off the rest off his clothes, and helped Joyce off with her pants.
“Just be gentle, Charlie.”
He was. Joyce moaned softly as her body warmed to Charlie’s touch, and Charlie felt fire play across his skin. A little milk came from Joyce’s nipples. He liked that. They slipped sideways through time in the realm of pleasure, until the last gentle spasms subsided and they lay peacefully embraced.
“Well, that was nice,” Joyce said, slowly and huskily, “but we seem to have made of mess of someone’s sleeping bag.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Charlie laughed, “It belonged to Rosa’s ex husband.”
“We’d better get dressed. Do you want to go for a walk?”
“Sure. Let’s get out of here.”
Half a block away, they ran right into Harry.
“There you are. I’ve been wondering what happened to you two.”
“Oh, we’ve been walking around, looking at the town, and we got to talking,” Joyce answered lightly, smiling.
“Well, I’m glad you two got a chance to talk. Do you want to head over to the motel?”
“Why?”
“You know the owners, Tom and Sheryl?”
“Yeah?”
“Well, their son just got in. He’s the editor of a Texas paper. He’d like to talk to a few of us so he can write a story.”
“All right! Let’s go.”

Alicia was worried about the meeting. She kept calling people to remind them, but the snow that had fallen the night before was making it difficult for people to travel the old roads in the community that surrounded the town. Finally there were about forty people, and they had polished off most of the food, so she introduced the speakers to everyone, and then they watched the films. Afterwards she had each person, George, from the Albuquerque Resource Center, and Bill Dufess, from Nuclear Futures, give a presentation. A few people left, but Alicia spoke to each of them before they did. George talked about the dangers of radiation leaching away from the dump, and Dufess spoke of the economic benefits that Cimarrón would derive from the increased truck traffic. He was trying to drive home a point about the safety of the project when Ruth Mondragon interrupted him.
“What about the flooding, Dufess?
“Yeah, what about that?” someone else interjected.
He looked confused. “I don’t understand, what flooding?”
“Every time the river overflows, that strip of land is under water.”
“This is the first I’d heard of it. The land is dry, and we searched the records and didn’t find any evidence of flooding.”
“How far back did you go?” Ruth wanted to know.
“We searched back twenty years.”
“Well, about twenty, maybe twenty-five years ago, we had one hell of flood here,” Ruth’s husband added. “And that wasn’t the first one, how do you know that won’t happen again?”
“Yeah,” Margarita spoke up, “how do we know that radioactive junk won’t come floating through town some day?”
Dufess smiled. “I’ll certainly look into it. But, you needn’t worry, the waste will certainly not leak out of there.”
“We’ve heard that before,” Joyce added.
“You’re all worried about nothing,” came a new voice. “I think this here dump’s gonna be good for business.” It was Mr. Lambe, from the diner. “Why, most people around here support this thing. There’s only a few crybabies against it.”

“You just say that because you stand to make a few bucks, Max,” Ruth told him.

“What, what’s wrong with that?” Lambe shouted out. “We could all use the money.”

“But what if it’s not safe?” Alicia asked.

“Yeah, ” someone shouted from the back. A chorus of “Yeahs” followed.

“Now listen, everyone,” Dufess broke in. I can guarantee you this is safe. Not only that, but I’ve spoken with Mr. Lambe, and other members of the business community here, and everyone agrees that this would be a good thing for Cimarrón financially.”

“Maybe it would,” Tom Hilton said, “but its not a good idea.” Tom had moved to Cimarrón in 1959, trying to resurrect the old hotel. “That’s where the old town was,” he said, “That’s Cimarrón’s history over there. The Maxwell mansion was there. The Yellow Front Saloon. The Cimarrón News and Press, where Clay Allison roped the press and dragged it into the river. Hell, Kit Carson hung out there. Billy the Kid was a friend of Maxwell’s son. Wyatt and Morgan Earp met Doc Holliday there. There’s a lot of history there. I don’t think we should turn it into a dump.”

Alicia said, “I think we ought to start a petition, and find out how many people really want that dump here.”

“You got it!” Ruth, on her feet, yelled out.
Everyone wanted to help Alicia draft a petition for Cimarrón. George offered his ideas, and other people wanted to use STOP’s petition.
“Why can’t we just say, ‘We don’t want a nuclear waste dump in Cimarrón’?” Alicia wanted to know.
“Or anywhere else in New Mexico,” Ruth suggested.
“OK, that’s it,” Alicia agreed. “Now let’s get some copies made up.”
“We’ll do that,” Charlie offered. If you’ll write it down, I’ll take it with me, type it, and send you a bunch of copies.”

Pretty soon, Alicia a few others had taken the petition around to every door in Cimarrón. Charlie called from Albuquerque to find out how it was going, and if she needed any help.
“Thanks Charlie, but it’s going great. We’ve got over seven hundred signatures, and there’s a photographer from the Santa Fe paper who’s going to come by and take a picture of us with all the names.”
“Wow! That’s really great, Alicia.”
“I’ll send you a copy of the paper when we get it.”

Two months after the story appeared in the papers, Nuclear Futures cancelled their plans to build the first commercial nuclear garbage dump in New Mexico. radioactive-trench.gif

“Ruthie, did you hear that Bill Dufess is moving?”
“I’m not surprised.”
“And he said he wanted to live here, whether or not the dump went in.”
“Alicia, I think we ought to have a party, to celebrate.”
“Let’s do it tonight. I’ll supply Tequila.”
“And I’ll bring Tony and Eloy. You call Rita and Effie.”
“Bueno.”
“Bueno bye.”

Six months later, Alicia was elected Mayor.

Charlie got a letter from Joyce. She was in New Hampshire. She’d been arrested at a sit-in protesting the building of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. Although she’d been well treated, she’d lost her baby when she’d gotten out of jail. She and Harry were going to get married. They’d decided to try for another child, and thought it best to get married first. Charlie and Rosa were invited, but they didn’t go. He stayed home because Rosa didn’t want to go. She couldn’t. She had a date, although Charlie didn’t know it yet.

© 1989 – 2010 rtmulcahy

Black Jack Ketchum, Clay Allison, Pat Garrett, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Kit Carson, and Zane Grey all either visited, worked, lived – or, in some cases, died – in Cimarrón.

Posted in fiction, Life, love, relationships, sex, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cops, Priests, and Altar Boy Scouts

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 29, 2008

badpriest.jpg (me in costume, years ago)

I wanted to be a priest. Yeah, a god-damned priest. Why? Well, for one thing, they have a good break in life. They don’t pay taxes, and they have an easy life. All they do is give sermons and repeat the same old shit all the time.

Just because I said that, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t religious. You couldn’t have paid me enough to miss Mass on Sunday – a mortal sin. I didn’t want to go to hell. elevationofhost.jpg I was an altar boy too, serving God in the cold, damp fucking early mornings before school. I should have become a priest. I was primed for it. After eight years of Catholic schools I was ready to believe that God saw everything I did, knew everything I thought. I didn’t dare hurt Him by sinning. My classmates didn’t like my attitude. I was a true believer, and they weren’t. Of course, much of that was my reaction to their thinking of me as an idiot, so I had to have something that made me better than them, if I wasn’t ever going to be their equal.

I could see them laughing at my perfect, good-little-Catholic-boy responses to the nuns’ prompts in class. A good example is the story I wrote in fifth or sixth grade. We’d been told to write something about winter. Could have been about snow, and sledding, and snowball fights, and snowmen, and fun. Instead, I wrote a sermon. It was only a paper to be turned in, but I wrote a reminder to everyone to think of Jesus being born into that cold winter snow, much like the storms that were so terrible we couldn’t even go outside in them. I was proud of it. I was a religious Sambo, grinning and jiving that Jesus stuff, hoping to impress people with my virtuous love of God. A goody two-shoes in the extreme. Better than other people, with the correct relationship with God. Hah! It worked too well. The nun read it to the entire class. I’ve always been an idiot.

Father Kirsch didn’t think I was perfect. He kicked me out of “the altar boys” for talking and clowning around in line while we waited for his sorry late ass to show up at May Day procession rehearsal. talking-in-line.jpg He made us line up in twos, and stand that way until he got there. Since he was late, I was bored. When authority figures weren’t actually in the room, my virtue seemed to evaporate. Kirsch outdid everyone in the self-righteous department. He stormed and fumed about our performance, whether by the altar or on the street. He fired me right then and there, the moment he walked in, since I wasn’t standing there perfectly quiet and still. I was horrified. I cried on my way home. I couldn’t tell my parents about it. My dad had been a deacon himself for years, and had taught altars boys himself at a different church before we had moved, before we were old enough to be in ‘it’. Serving Mass was a kind of calling, akin to being called to the priesthood. You took it seriously, and, like everything else my parents told me to do, there was no such thing as refusing. For weeks I pretended to go to rehearsals. I walked down to the church and even looked in. I hung around the shrubbery until they were almost through and went home. My parents didn’t ask me where I’d been. Why would I lie about that? Eventually someone told them, and I was back serving Mass again, for awhile. Serving Mass under Kirsch was stressful however. Once I missed my cue to ring the bells, without which no one in the pews knew when to stand or kneel. Horrified, I missed the next one too. One rings them three times during the raising of the host, three times during the raising of the wine. That day it was once, then three. I could hear the confusion in the pews, but I never heard a word about that one.

I was also a boy scout – uniform and all. boy_scout_with_oath.jpg Weird that that organization finds so many ways to get money from parents, money mine could ill afford to part with when six other kids needed basic necessities too. Poorer kids didn’t join at all. All that crap: manual, merit badge books, field trips, uniform, compass, knife, and camping fees and gear too. There were times when I had to wear my uniform to class. Green was at least different than the tan shirt and brown pants I had to wear every other day of the school year, with the iron-on patches on my elbows and knees. I wore my knife on my belt. That was a odd thing to get away with, but when you’re a “boy scout” you are also close to perfect: trustworthy (people depend on you), loyal (to family, leaders, school and nation), helpful (without pay or reward), friendly (a friend to all), courteous (good manners), kind (strength in gentleness), obedient (obeys the law), cheerful (whistle while you work), thrifty (save), brave (can face danger), clean (in body and mind), and reverent (to God, and faithfully). So, there I was, on my way home one day, all gussied up in my starched shirt and badly creased pants (I had to iron my own clothes). I stopped by the drugstore where I read comics. Some of my classmates were hanging out there.

“Hey, pretty boy.” “Are you a good little scout?” “That’s a nice bandanna you’ve got there.” “Can I try it on? I want to tie my hair up.” Rough crowd. Even white Catholic boys have gangs, toughs and petty thieves. These guys regularly stole from the store. I was told a story once about being chased by cops down the alley, with gunshot warnings. These guys were 13 and 14. Like I said, tough neighborhood, of sorts. However, enough was enough. I saw red. boy-scouts-bigotry-e.jpg I was a boy scout, brave and all that, so I pulled my knife out and waved it at them. “Come on,” I told ’em, come and get me. Here I am. ” Of course, they backed away. They laughed too, but they weren’t smiling as I moved toward them. No one else in that school could possibly have carried a knife. I’m surprised they even let the Scouts carry one. I was insane, and waving a knife. And it was sharp too – I always made sure of that. I probably had a whetstone in my pocket. Even Maranelli backed off.

Maranelli was one of the tough ones. One time, a couple years later, walking home late one night, I got jumped. Two guys grabbed me from behind. I was surprised how strong they were, and how firmly I was held. I wasn’t optimistic until the third guy came around in front, saying, “Got any money?’ I recognized Maranelli. He recognized me too. “Hi Frank,” I said. He told the other two to let me go. “He’s OK,” he said. We didn’t say much else. Didn’t really know each other outside of grade school, and I was already in high school by then, downtown, away from there.

It’s a good thing I didn’t stick around that neighborhood, considering those kind of career choices. I was, as I said, a good boy – oldest of seven, responsible, the ‘good’ example. Washed dishes, mowed the lawn, picked weeds, scrubbed floors, babysat. Didn’t talk back. Studied. Went to Church on Sundays. Went to Monday night religion classes after eighth grade since I was in a public school then. Still. Still, I had been in trouble enough. Used to swipe candy bars on a regular basis, especially Kit Kats. kitkat.jpg Mmm, chocolate. My parents weren’t about to buy crap like that except at Easter. Since I’d read the whole Science Fiction and fantasy section of the local library, I took paperbacks from the same store too. I had a whole library of purloined paperbacks at home. A nearby toy store had lost several model cars to me and my brother. Somehow, I always forgot to confess such things on Saturday. Really. Never entered my mind while I was in the confessional. I had a routine, and I followed it. It was supposed to be instructional, but I used my littlest boy voice, and the priests rarely asked questions.

Got caught stealing a couple times only. The first time, the toy store owner just called my dad. He made me and my brother wait in his office. I ditched the razor blade there. I’d been using it to neatly open the clear plastic coverings on the packages. I stuffed it into the corrugations of a cardboard box. fluting.jpg The owner was no dummy. His desk was locked. He did come in and search us. Looked all around the office too, even in the trash can, but nobody would think to rip apart all the cardboard on a box for a razor blade. He thought we had knives. I told him the packages were already cut. My dad took us home, read us the riot act. I don’t remember the punishment for that one. He told us the story about how he had been caught stealing and his dad had left welts all over his legs for that. Leather straps or a belt were not an uncommon punishment for us, but never that severe.

The second time, I was not so lucky. I’d stuffed some paperbacks under my jacket, but I’d done it so many times before that I actually forgot they were under my jacket as I reached for the door. The drugstore owner was pissed. He accused me of being with a gang; wanted to know which one. Told me that the gangs stole stuff for fun. Tried to convince him I wasn’t in a gang, didn’t know anyone in a gang. He had already called the cops though. 1967chev.jpg Too late for cuteness and innocence. The two cops put me in the back of the squad car and headed out; said they were taking me downtown to the station. I started crying. Seemed the best thing to do, and really, I was scared. I wanted them to know I was really sorry. I was really scared of jail, and scared of my dad when he found out. I started telling them not to tell my dad, begged ’em not to. Did my best to convince them that my dad would beat the hell out of me, and it was a possibility, after all. They didn’t turn at the light. They went on across the main street, up the hill and down the many blocks I walked each day. Took me home. My dad was at his second job. My mom came downstairs with two kids in her arms and two more screaming bloody murder upstairs. Cowards left me there. They left faster than I had imagined. Maybe they knew my mom’s dad, who’d been a Baltimore cop for a long time. bpdpatch.jpg My mom told ’em, “His dad will take care of him.” Dad probably would have too, except he didn’t touch me anymore since I’d knocked him down and tried, really tried, to kick his teeth in. He was still stronger than me, after all, but that had made him proud somehow. He’s spent years trying to convince me not to turn the other cheek to bullies, to stand up for myself, and not take abuse. So I did. He started slapping my head back and forth. I knocked him down. He wasn’t expecting it. But he smiled the whole time, that time, and never hit me again.  We talked this time, and that was it. He yelled some, as I recall, but we both knew he wasn’t going to hit me.

Posted in crime, faith, family, humor, Life, My Life, rambling, religion, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

BLOODROCK

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on January 23, 2008

malpais_lava.jpg

8am. Saturday morning. Phone. Ringing.
Hi! It’s Mark I’ve got a truck
taking the lava rocks to Mt. Taylor today
wanna come?

Three years Mark collected these rocks
just a few each trip
he’d drive 70 miles to see May
she lives near Grants on Oso Ridge.

The rocks are bad luck, May Lee said
don’t mix East flow with West flow
if you do if you do
Enemy of the People may return.

In the Navajo story of creation
the Twins slew the monster –
the one who troubled the People
his blood is black hard sharp.

Landscapers create rock gardens
Mark decorated his land
delineated his agriculture
with lavaculture.

Jesús fell his friend Jesús

fell off the wagon fell down
face onto sharp rocks
blood on the rocks.

Mark remembered the tale of the flow
the respect of Navajo for myth
Mark respects tradition
guilt guilt guilty

Love on the rocks too

Could his rocks be cursed?
bad blood between him and May
“Get out” “I’m leaving”

He decided to put things right
return the rock to its home
to the dead lava lake
oh and maybe May would come?

Heavy rocks
four strong men leather gloves
wheelbarrow rented flatbed
We panted the truck canted.

We drove to Mt. Taylor
(stopped to pee and gas the truck
12 dollars twelve gallons.
or three gallons a-piss).

To the mountain whose blood we carried
unloaded our burden
tossed right, threw left, dumped back
and May helped too.

A black lake of cold liquid rock

old pools glass-smooth sharp
whirls and eddies
frozen in time by the sacred mountain.

A few hundred pounds next to the flow
prodigal shards of blood of the beast
returned to their home
wasteland of unfriendly stone.

Our mission done, we played in the snow
the sky darkened rumbled
flashes split the air
time to go.

Lunch at El Cafecito
green chile stew pie and ice cream
the sky opened water poured
drove 60 miles home

the windows leaked.

Posted in humor, Life, love, madness, poem, poetry, relationships, Uncategorized, World, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who does Santa support for President?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 11, 2007

santa.jpg Oh, you’re looking for another celebrity endorsement, are you? Well, you won’t get one here. I will tell you this: Santa is a man of peace, and not peace when it’s convenient or politically correct, but now. Those of you fighting in Iraq, and Santa knows exactly who you are after all, need to get out of there. Santa does not endorse any of your gods either. Get out. Get out now. You say you still want to know who should take over as President of the United States? I haven’t seen much good will coming from Republicans or Democrats, and not much effort has been made by any of these politicians to seriously end this war. Now they are even preparing for another war, even while occupying two countries. No, my friends, it is not for Santa to say who US citizens should vote for in their Presidential circus. That said, however, I think you should all search your hearts and vote for whoever you think will end this mess quickly and bring all of your loved ones home quickest. That’s all Santa has to say on this subject.

santafish.png

Posted in celebrity, christianity, Christmas, current events, family, Holidays, Human rights, islam, Life, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized, war, World, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Are old women sexually attractive?

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on December 3, 2007

In response to one of my posts on another blog, I got this email (excerpted):

>>> Why aren’t you attracted to women closer to your own age? For that matter why can’t most middle-aged men appreciate women of a certain age? I’m in my mid-thirties and it really gets on my nerves when I’ve been hit on by men in their 70’s. After this happened a few times I began to wonder if I looked old or something. It’s not flattering to be hit on by someone old enough to be your father, trust me. It makes you wonder what is wrong with the guy and whether he has some issues about control and/or power. …it’s no fun being a woman and getting unwanted male attention. … OK, I guess I feel pretty sensitive about the whole age thing. … And hey, why not try to meet some women your own age?<<<

old-woman-madeira.jpg old-woman.jpg old_woman.jpg

I’ve been giving the second part of your message some thought. I’m attracted to women my own age, for friendship. Sexually, I never stopped being turned on by my ex, even as her jowls increased, her weight increased, her hands turned old & leathery looking, and she had to regularly dye her hair. Every look at her bare skin or touch of her body was enough to arouse me. I’m still attracted to her. However, being attracted sexually to other old-looking women is difficult. For one, in my experience, women lose interest in sex as they get old, especially during and after menopause. Men never lose interest their entire lives, and can in fact father children their entire lives. Since it is rare for an old woman to conceive, I suspect men have always looked to younger women for sex. I’ve heard that some older women enjoy sex, but I’ve yet to meet one, so why would I expect to have good sex with a woman who no longer enjoys it, and/or who only has it for their spouse’s sake? I love cuddling, holding hands, snuggling during movies and in bed, but that is not enough. I believe the answer to your question is simply, sex. Men are conditioned, perhaps also inherently through biology, to seek out young women for procreation. This is not to say that a man can’t continue to have a great sexual relationship with his spouse when they get old, but a single man? or a married man that is not getting sex and/or passion? Of course men will hit on women of any age that appear sexually attractive. IMHO.

This woman is definitely sexually attractive (at age 52): mariamcbane1998.jpg

This a a good resource on sexual arousal of older people: Sex and the Silver Years

Men are almost universally attracted to women of all ages, and I can’t see that changing. For friendship, it doesn’t matter. If an older woman, who is not interested in sex, wants to live with or be married to a man, then she must let him seek out other women for sex, not insist that he be “faithful”, whatever the hell that means. Just because a man loves a woman, that doesn’t mean he only wants sex with her. Usually it’s true, a man wants sex with his partner, and that’s usually enough, but when a woman doesn’t enjoy sex, or rejects it out of hand, why the hell would they object to a man having sex with another woman, regardless of age? I think the same holds true for women: if they want sex, and their spouse/significant other doesn’t, then they should have sex with other men, and there should be no jealousy, nor any change in living arrangements. Maybe old women who don’t enjoy sex should just live with each other.

>>> I know you’re being honest and frankly, it scares me. Getting old for a woman isn’t the same as for a man. It’s like, we can’t all be Demi Moore and look fabulous. I am friends with a couple of women in their mid-to-late forties and I think they are drinking themselves to death because of their loneliness (much like the woman you ran into while you were walking in the ditch). I hope you can see a woman’s point-of-view on this one. Men are often guaranteed a lifetime of love and companionship.<<<

No one is asking women to look like Demi Moore. Well, of course, I can understand why you’d feel that way somewhat. What I don’t understand is why older women can’t be happy with their friends? Why are they lonely? Why does a woman need a man? If she wants sex, then I can see it. But if a woman has already had lovers, husbands, children, and isn’t interested in sex anymore, why would she need to have another man, and only a man, just for companionship? I don’t understand that. Children tend to stay in touch, visit, and be around their mothers all their lives, so it seems that women are usually guaranteed a lifetime of love and men are the ones that aren’t. I doubt seriously that men in general are guaranteed any love or companionship for life. The ones that do have it have had to go out and actively seek it out, perhaps again and again, and it’s a crapshoot. Additionally, just because a man is with a woman, that doesn’t mean he’s getting love or companionship. I do know about that. Men do not seek out young women for looks so much as for the sex. Are you saying that women in their 50s and 60s look for men for sex? or they can’t imagine the “disgrace” of only living with other women? If a woman is fun to be around, and there’s some sexual tension or playfulness, then I don’t think she has to worry about finding a man in her old age, or keeping the one she has. Many old women and men hang out together for fun and companionship. Old people can live together, but denying men sex because a woman doesn’t want it anymore? That’s wrong. If older men were free to have sex outside such a relationship, then such a scenario wouldn’t result in a man leaving an older woman, just for sex. All bets are off if the woman is actually interested in sex. Some women fail to appreciate how important sex is to most men, again, IMHO, and place too much importance on men having sex with other women, even when they are not interested in it themselves.

You also said, “I began to wonder if I looked old or something.” Are you kidding? Do you think people have a filter on their attractions, that men can only be attracted to people their own age? That was the funniest thing I ever read, that a man who hits on you thinks you look old! That was really, really funny. Thanks.

And I am certainly interested in woman in their 30s, or 40’s. I married my 1st wife in her 30s, and my second was already over 40 when I met her, 45 just before we married. Both women were divorced with two kids, one of each already a teenager. I certainly have never been bothered by such things. My first real, live-in relationship was with a woman 5 years older than me. There is only ONE woman under 30 I am interested in at all (she’s 27), and I am far too old for her to even consider.

See also:

older-men-find-older-women-just-as-attractive-as-their-younger-counterparts-survey-shows

[In a Synovate survey of seniors aged 55 or older nearly 40% of men in 12 key markets said older women were just as attractive as their younger counterparts. The study was conducted among 3,481 seniors in France, Germany, the US, Japan, Greece, Hungary, South Africa, Slovakia, Italy, Romania, Hong Kong and Korea. Questions asked of respondents ranged from their perceptions of beauty vis-a-vis age, the age they think a woman’s beauty peaks and the least beautiful thing about men and women as they age. Apart from the 50% of Greek men and 33% of Italian men who point out weight gain as the least attractive aspect of women getting older, a flattering majority of men in most markets surveyed find mature women every bit as attractive – wrinkles, grey hair and all. In Germany, six out of 10 older men think older women are simply gorgeous.]

All this being said, however, I think the question can be simplified to: Are women attractive? Certainly. Some are, some aren’t. Women that wouldn’t have been attractive to me when they were younger, aren’t suddenly going to be attractive when they get older, just because I am older. So, no, not all women are attractive to all men, nor are all men attractive to all women. Age can be a factor, but it is not the primary factor in a relationship, any more than a certain kind of look. We can be influenced by society: family, friends, commercial ads, movies, etc. but we are still attracted to whom we are attracted to, regardless of sex, colors, or age. No one has any right to condemn anyone else for who they are attracted to, as long as the attraction is based on real physical interaction, not fantasy or mental disease.

The question I should really pose here is: Are old men sexually attractive if they aren’t rich or famous?

Posted in Life, Random Thoughts, relationships, sex, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 19 Comments »

Gold Glasses for Grandmom

Posted by O'Maolchaithaigh on November 13, 2007

rubyred.jpg“There is gold in them.” The woman in the antique store told me that the glasses were made with gold. They were old glasses. She didn’t know how it was done. They were red. I couldn’t understand why glasses made with gold in them could be red, but there they were. She said that was how you could tell, that only glasses made that way could be that color of red. Blood red. Nothing else is that exact color. She thought they had been made during the Depression. I was so intrigued that I came back a few days later and bought them. People have been coloring glass for centuries. The ancient Romans knew that adding gold to glass would convert it into a ruby-red material when heated in a controlled fashion. My favorite colors have always been blue and green and black. I think I liked the glasses more because I imagined the gold swirled around in their making. I’d done some blower.jpg glass blowing, so I could appreciate the red hot glowing balls of molten glass being formed into joints, into tubes and balls and shapes. The hot glass is so pretty that you want to touch its perfection, but you cannot. Years later I was to work in a printed-circuit board shop, and learn how gold is applied to the finger tabs along the edge on each board, the tabs that connect the board to other boards, and to power. Gold’s properties as a conductor make it almost perfect for connecting these thin circuits. circuit-board.jpg One need only apply a current across an object in a tank of acidic dissolved gold, and you can coat that object with a layer of gold. Of course, on a circuit board, under the gold is a layer of nickel. I do not know exactly what the nickel is for, unless it is to create a thickness and strength for the very thin layer of gold, which could otherwise be worn off quickly. And the gold must have something to adhere to. I don’t remember exactly why nickel was used, for once you see the gold tank, you forget all else. chrtank1.jpg It is a shining pool of red, the color of blood. For gold does not dissolve into any old solvent. To dissolve gold and maintain it in solution you need cyanide – actually hydrogen cyanide is its proper name. The structure that forms is similar to a structure found in hemoglobin. Cyanide is also necessary for the commercial preparation of amino acids. It is considered likely that hydrogen cyanide played a part in the origin of life. It is released from molecules in cherries, apricots, bitter almonds and apple seeds. At the right concentration hydrogen cyanide will kill a human within a few minutes. The toxicity is caused by the cyanide ion, which prevents cellular respiration.
It occurred to me to ask my grandmother gm-on-crusie.jpg if she had known about these glasses, and she said she remembered when Ruby Reds were popular, but had never owned any. I had only five of the small juice glasses. Five. She had five children left before my father died, but she had raised six healthy children. Six.  One of my aunts had died, hit by a car, while still a young and beautiful mother. I brought the glasses with me to my father’s wake and gave them to her then. I don’t know why. I seldom saw her, and wanted to give her something. After a while at the wake I saw her, and she was a little on the tipsy side as my father might had said. She was carrying the glasses around the house with her. I dismissed it at the time as an old woman having had too much to drink. But she was hugging the glasses, and would not put them down. After that I looked for more. I finally found one, and bought it, for it had finally occurred to me that she might have found more significance in the number of glasses than I had intended. I sent it to her so that she could have six blood-red cyanide glasses of gold, one for each of her children. auntsuncles.jpg

Posted in family, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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