MEOW WOLF

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

meow_wolfWhat happened to the family that lived in this Victorian house? They’re gone… Find out if you can. This is the House of Eternal Return. Actually, this is the Meow Wolf experience; and you will have quite a memorable experience, indeed. Just go with it…and crawl through the fireplace.

Okay… This is supposed to be a blog about architecture and preservation so the hook and handle on this post is about adaptive reuse of a vacant 20,000 square foot bowling alley in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s the connection to architecture… repurposing a large vacant space and turning it into an interactive and experiential art and performance space. This is very hard to describe without being a spoiler. It’s not a Halloween funhouse – it’s a journey through imagination and parallel realities. I’ll post a few pictures below but I really don’t want to give away too much information…

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A Transitional Season

The wind has picked up today and is so strong that the birds and small animals have taken cover. We are transitioning into the fall season but summer doesn’t want to let go. We are still in the last tattered shreds of our Monsoon season – it has rained almost every day this week. The Monsoons should have ended a few weeks ago but they got a late start so we are thankful for the lingering rain.

The wind is poking around in every nook and crack. I can hear it protesting in the chimney because it can’t come all the way into the house. I always have windows open, even in the dead of winter, so the wind is finding another way to get in.

chamisa-1The Chamisa is in full bloom so the sometimes dry and dreary desert landscape is cloaked in bright yellow. I’ve never seen it so thick and bright…but this is just my third year in the desert so almost everything is still a surprise. Chamisa is our Spanish name for the local variety of what some people call Rabbit Bush. If you have been out west you have probably seen it. Ours is usually small and neatly clumped as if someone tended and trimmed it every day. The rabbits, of which I have many, do not eat it but tend to hide among the clumps. The quail do the same thing.

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Fall, and October, means two things here just north of Albuquerque: Balloon Fiesta and the arrival of the Sand Hill Cranes.  The Balloon Fiesta is the first full week of October (including both weekends) and we will see several hundred thousand visitors pour into town. It is a beautiful time of year anyway and the 800 hot air balloons add to the color and delight. They have mass ascensions every day and on most days they fly to my neighborhood and land all around me. So far no one has landed on the house but they are in all the vacant land around me. They have an interesting procedure each morning…they send up a “Dawn Patrol”, five brave balloonists with flashing lights on their baskets just before dawn to see what the conditions are. If they are good then the other 800 will go up…if not they postpone or cancel the mass ascension and try to locate the five guinea pig balloonists.  It reminds me of the videos I’ve seen of Penguins in the Antarctic that shove a couple Penguins into the water to see of the Leopard Seals are waiting.

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The arrival of the Sand Hill Cranes is a little later in October but almost as spectacular. Most of them continue south to Bosque del Apache wildlife area but we have a resident population of several hundred just in my area. They are noisy birds and you most often hear them before you see them. If they are flying overhead you might not see them at all in the dazzling sunlight. When they are roosting near the river they sound like croaking frogs. I went to a Christmas event one year and the birds almost drowned out the carolers trying to sing Silent Night. At this point we still have a few hummingbirds but they will be gone soon. I had a falcon sitting on my garden wall earlier in the week hoping to grab a dove or maybe even a hummingbird.

I made a last-day-of-summer visit to our botanical garden. It seemed tired and a little worse for wear. The summer was exceptionally hot and dry from June to August. By the time the rain arrived most of the flowers and plants were too far gone. There were a number of bright spots and the Japanese Garden is always pleasant. They installed a special rose garden featuring roses that do well in the desert climate.  The roses looked pretty good in spite of the weather. The “Heritage Farm” section, a replicated Rio Grande valley farm, was selling apple cider from the apple orchard.

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I’m doing some garden work of my own. When you landscape your property with native plants they don’t always know that they are supposed to stay where I put them. Being acclimatized to the desert and doing what comes naturally, they send out little volunteers everywhere. If I left it alone I’d have a jungle of sorts. That’s what I had when I moved here and it took over a year to get it under control. The previous owners planted Russian Sage, a pretty plant but one that sends out root runners and then one plant becomes ten plants and then thirty plants if you don’t keep it under control.  I also have a 1,500 gallon goldfish pond that needs frequent care. I have sixteen large fancy goldfish and it is pretty to look at but also can get out of hand. I noticed the water level was too low a few days ago and started filling it with the hose. Something happened and I got distracted and then had to go someplace. The hose ran for about ten hours and when I realized what happened I had more than a foot of water above the normal level. Goldfish were swimming where no fish has gone before. It was still contained but the pond will not need any additional water for quite a while.

watson-2Watson, my elderly cat and almost constant companion going back sixteen years died this summer. He is often missed when I work outside because he stayed close and was a watcher, not a doer. In his entire life he caught one vole that I know of and a few lizards. He never quite understood the goldfish and was puzzled by the very idea that something could live under water. I miss him also when I write because he would curl up on a rug close by and fall asleep or watch out the door for anything interesting. He was also a snorer. I’ll find a new cat at some point but not for a while. Watson was on medications twice a day and that required me to stay home unless my daughter could take care of him. I’d like to do a little travelling before I get another cat.

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So now we are looking at changing seasons. We have a nice long fall season going up to late November or early December. Nights will be cool and there might be an early frost but daytime temperature will be in the 60s into the first week of December. This windy cold snap is a hint of what is in store – they say it will be down to 41 degrees tonight. We don’t have many of those golden Aspen trees – they are up in the mountains or farther north in Colorado – but in a while our Cottonwoods will put on a show to rival the Aspens.

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Well, I think I just heard that the wind blow away my watering can so I have to stop and retrieve it.

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End of Summer

I had an out-of-town visitor this week and we took part of a day and visited the Albuquerque Bio-Park’s Botanical Garden. It has been a hot and dry summer and the monsoon season seemed late in coming and has stayed a while longer than usual. The late rain didn’t provide much help to the parched victims of Albuquerque’s sun…plants, that is.

That being said, there was still a lot to see and it was an enjoyable visit.  Here are a few pictures….

 

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The Pornography of Donald Trump

          Try as he will, he can’t stop looking. There is something forbidden yet strangely appealing about it. It goes against almost everything he learned at an early age. It is counter to what she once thought of herself. It is like the curious lure of pornography and the Trump supporter can’t look away. Donald Trump has a strange and pornographic lure. It is not so much the outward message as it is the inner thrill of hearing, or thinking that one hears, something that appeals to the darkest emotions. Trump grants permission to go to that place and live there. Trump, of course will deny it but continues unabated.
          Then there is the “us against them” lure…a hook that catches the Trump supporter like a fish being snagged in the sea. Then, once caught, they are reeled in with an appealing line of whoppers. The falsehoods first appeal like a forbidden dessert and then eventually become the bread and butter of a distorted belief system.
          Trump becomes the thing that granted and sustains the release of the darkness, fear and hatred that skulked hidden like a cinder in the human heart. Not to worry…Trump will make it all better. It is almost like a mantra. Maybe, for some, it’s more like a painkiller or release of endorphins to accept Donald Trump as their personal guardian and guide through the perceived world of unfairness and danger that surrounds them. They are enchanted by the message…that which once was, is no more and Trump will make it right. Never mind the lack of detail or precision on what exactly was lost or what exactly Trump will do to make things better. It is a cultish allegiance to a self-made prophet. David Koresh and Jim Jones worked a similar magic in religion but Trump stays in the realm of politics and social behavior. We have seen other facets of this same dazzling gem at other times and in other parts of the world and it never turns out well.
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The Brick City – Benton Park

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

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Let’s start this blog post with a catastrophe!

On May 17, 1849, a fire broke out on the steamboat “The White Cloud” docked at the St. Louis levee. The city was crowded with residents and hopeful travelers on the way to the California goldfields. Steamboats were moored in tiers several deep at the levee and the fire spread rapidly to the dozens of riverboats moored alongside and up and down the landing. Before long it spread to the buildings and warehouses along the riverfront and then worked its way inland into the city. Within a few hours the fire had engulfed most of the central core of the city and fire fighters were blowing up businesses in the fire’s path to create a fire break. One of the firefighters was blown to bits in the attempt to save the city, the first recorded fireman’s death in service for the city and in the…

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The View From the Observation Car

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I enjoy train travel. There, I said it for all the world to see.

For some reason there is a lot of complaining and ill-will directed toward train travel and especially Amtrak, the only nation-wide rail passenger service in the United States. I just completed a 2,000 mile round trip train journey from Albuquerque to St. Louis and it was an enjoyable experience. This was a trip for a family reunion and I had a nice long visit with family and friends — some from forty years ago.

One important point needs to be made….I had a roomette in a sleeper car. Sleeper car accomodations are, for me, the way to go on any long train trip. This is for several reasons: You get to stretch out and actually attempt to sleep in a bed. Secondly, you have a place to keep your stuff reasonably secured. Thirdly, your dining car meals are included in the price of the sleeper…and the food is 100 times better than anything airlines are serving. You still have to pay for alcohol. Fourthly, there is an attendant assigned to each sleeper car who takes care of your routine needs and keeps the coffee pot going and ice available. Introduce yourself by name and consider a tip for exceptional service. The attendant makes your bed at night and converts it into seats during the day. Fifthly,  on this trip I get to sleep through Kansas…the best way to go through Kansas in my opinion. On the shorter leg of my journey, from Kansas City to St. Louis, I used business class — which means I had a little more space and wi-fi as well as free coffee in the adjoining cafe section.  I’m getting a little robust in my old age…some would call it portly…and I’m considering a larger compartment on my next trip at least in one direction. Americans are not as small as they used to be and two large-sized adults in a roomette is pretty tight.

Cost is a factor but when I compared the round-trip sleeper costs to a round-trip airline ticket with reasonable departures and arrivals and only one out-of-the-way layover (Denver or Houston) the train was about $130 dollars more expensive. That was worth the cost to me. Of course time is a factor as well. If you have to be somewhere in a hurry, don’t take the train. The horrendous stories about late train arrivals are not as common as one would think. We got into St. Louis five minutes early and were back into Albuquerque about thirty minutes late. The delay was caused by a stalled truck on the tracks in Kansas. I left Albuquerque on a Tuesday and returned from St. Louis on a Friday. Sleeper car accomodations fluctuate in cost based on season and demand and there could be a very significant difference from one day to another. It pays to be flexible and schedule your trip for days when the costs are lower. That’s not always possible but it works well for retirees or for people with sufficient time and flexibility.

I enjoy the dining car experience because the food is good and because Amtrak practices open seating, which means that you will be placed at a table with other travellers. Don’t expect to eat alone…you will have company and often an interesting conversation. On this trip I met an interesting lady from Hawaii (also going to St. Louis), two published writers, a man who seems to have personal communication with the Lord…who gives him stock tips, and a fellow train buff on his way to Minneapolis. On other trips I’ve enjoyed the dining company of park rangers, film producers, bee keepers, and a man on his way to Osawatamie. The standard menu is pretty good but there are often meal specials like braised pork shanks with mesquite BBQ sauce, mashed potatoes, a roll, dessert, and iced tea. That was a lunch special and included in the sleeper price.

So…what about the view from the observation car? I’ll post some pictures but you really don’t have to be in the observation car to watch the scenery go by. There is a small snack bar on the lower level for drinks and light snacks or sandwiches. Since I enjoy photography I take a bunch of pictures. Here are some from the trip….It was monsoon season in New Mexico when I left so the clouds were often as interesting as the landscape.It was less cloudy on the way back.

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One doesn’t always see the most scenic side of towns or cities along the way but there are some interesting sights like prisoners in an exercise yard, a nice park pavilion, agricultural operations and a few interesting old houses along the way. Coming back on the return trip it was somewhat comforting to recognize the familiar mountain profiles and the far-off horizons of New Mexico.

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Demolition by Neglect – Now You Have It/Now You Don’t

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

img_1016 Capitol Avenue

This is not a unique story — it happens in other places. This is the place I know something about… I lived there thirty-seven years and watched the problem develop.

Once upon a time Jefferson City’s Capitol Avenue neighborhood was a showplace of nice homes with mixed architectural styles. This was where the Barons of (prison) Industry built their homes…within walking distance of the Missouri State Penitentiary where the inmates worked in their factories making shoes and other products of the late 19th century. This was an era when prisons were considered commercial enterprises with a large cost free, or nearly free, labor force. It was not unusual for inmates to be rented out for construction work in the city. Sometimes this was public work, like heavy-duty road building or excavation, but sometimes for private projects. Having a large inmate labor force was beneficial to Jefferson City…

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