In Praise of Old Hotels — Las Cruces

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

I’ve not added much to this series on old hotels lately. It’s not for lack of trying — I’ve been out traveling but not finding anything good to write about. A lot of the “good” old places have been demolished or else my schedule didn’t make it easy to stay at the few promising places that I passed on my journeys.  I’ve been trying out a few 1950s era motels but there isn’t much to write about.

amtrak Deming

I recently had an opportunity to stay over in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after dropping my daughter off at the opulent Amtrak station in Deming where she caught the train to New Orleans. “Never again on that route”, she says emphatically. That’s her story to tell but I’ll just say that it ended with a very long bus ride. Everyone has a story to tell about Amtrak and now she has hers.


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A Fork in the Road

Schoolmate shot in the head by another — playing with a rifle…

That was my first encounter with gun deaths as a kid. Absolutely preventable. There would be more — friends or relatives of friends. We are at a fork in the road. Fifty-eight deaths at a concert. We have been here before but we always take the wrong path forward. That path only leads us to another ugly fork in the road and we always take the wrong path forward — deeper into the abyss of gun violence — fork after fork after fork. We don’t have the guts to take the right path because the wrong one is the familiar way…we don’t know what we will find on the right path and there are forces at work that keep us from going that way. We seem to be running in circles but it is a straight path downward.

Coworker’s son accidentally shot and killed by his father in a hunting accident.

That was my second encounter with gun deaths…some years later. Very sad, devastating indeed, and truly an accident. About one-third of Americans own firearms. About half of that number own only one or two guns. Many are hunters who are careful people when handling their firearms. Accidents happen but not all that often. Many are also sport shooters who are drawn to competitions or enjoy target shooting as a hobby. They are also very careful and usually shoot in a safe and controlled environment. I am technically a gun owner because I own a black-powder flintlock pistol that I once used in target shooting almost thirty-five years ago. It hasn’t been fired in over thirty years but I keep it in a safe place. Hunters and sport shooters are not the problem — but could be part of the solution to the gun problem in America.

Staff member’s young brother shot and killed by a confused and fearful security guard.

My next encounter with a gun death was absolutely preventable. He was a young black kid, a pre-teen, playing where he shouldn’t but was viewed as a threat by a startled security guard. The boy was with friends and they were doing what kids do. Somehow there was confusion in the dark and the security guard had a gun and used it. Guns are everywhere and fear is a great motivator to use them even when there is no real danger. About 3% of Americans own half the guns in this country. That’s somewhere around 180+ million guns. The average among that group is seventeen guns but some own many more. So many more that the average for all gun owners is somewhere around eight per owner. Some of those gun owners are legitimate collectors. Some might be legitimate gun vendors. Some, maybe more than some, are compelled by fear or some misguided notion of paranoia. I had a neighbor who pulled a gun on a fellow driver in a road rage incident. He was usually a calm person and not excitable but something happened that made him think he needed a gun. Then something happened that made him think he needed to use the gun. No one was hurt in the incident but a short time later it turned out he had a brain tumor. There is a lot of fear pushing people to own guns, mostly hand guns, and most of it is unwarranted.

A close friend and colleague gunned down by a white supremacist when he answered the front door.

My fourth encounter with a gun violence death was not that long ago. A good friend and colleague  was killed — they call it “assassinated” because he was a government official — by a white supremacy nut job who apparently acted on orders from an Aryan Brotherhood cell. The case is still open though the shooter was killed in a car chase. Someone put him up to it. There are crackpots and gun-crazy people and criminals and mental cases who should never have access to a gun. Kids should never have unsupervised access to a gun. The more guns we have the more they are circulated and end up where they don’t belong. About a half-million guns are stolen in this country every year, from private gun owners or from gun shops. Last December two guys stole a large Ford truck and drove it through the wall of a local gun shop and stole “several” guns…the number was not reported. They got away with the guns and have never been apprehended. About 1,600 guns are stolen in America each day. As gun advocates like the NRA pressure state legislatures to roll back gun possession and control laws the theft rate in those states increases. The guns fall into a black-market pipeline that funnels them into cities with stricter controls. A gun is stolen every minute in America.

A former coworker’s husband, a law enforcement officer, shot himself in the head on a quiet day on a quiet street for no apparent reason — a suicide.

A person bent on committing suicide will often find a way to accomplish it unless there is some intervention. Having a gun handy will speed things up — no intervention possible. It often destroys more than one life.  I live and grew up in a middle class community. I had the benefits of being educated and gainfully employed non-stop for 36 years. I mostly lived in “white” neighborhoods where one would not expect a great deal of gun violence. I know more people who died from firearms than I know who died from traffic accidents. I’m sure my experience with gun deaths is almost nothing compared to the experience of someone living in a ghetto or barrio or a gang controlled neighborhood.

Double homicide — jilted guy shoots and kills his girlfriend and her husband as they come out their door to go to work…an ambush killing.

This happened two doors away from my daughter’s house in a small town in rural Missouri. Gun violence is not just a city thing. The guy got away and was finally caught several hundred miles away. He had a gun and thought it was OK to kill people and figured he could get away. If he didn’t have the gun he wouldn’t have been waiting in the dark to squeeze off a couple rounds into his “problem” people. He wouldn’t have considered that to be a solution to his problem. There are about 310,000,000 guns in America with more added every day. We need more guns like we need a hole in the head.

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“It’s all Holy Land” – Rio Grande del Norte

El Malpais

“It’s all Holy Land” – Anonymous


Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is one of several national monuments designated over the past few years by Donald Trump’s predecessors that are now targeted for reduction in size or changes in administrative rules. This monument was established to preserve water and land resources along the Rio Grande as well as the cultural and religious sites important to the local Indian and Hispanic people in the area.

The Rio Grande Gorge offers scenic and recreational opportunities as it slices through the Taos Plateau. This is all part of the Rio Grande Rift and the area is dotted by ancient volcanoes…including San Antonio Mountain.

Large elk and deer herds gather here during the winter. Local people had an important role in establishing and supporting the monument which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Historic grazing rights established under Spanish and…

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September’s Morn

Writer's Cramp

Each year we gather our painful remembrances
of a sun swept day.

It was a Tuesday, not unlike many others…
an election day.

We stopped to cast votes as we went to work. We were
confident and young.

A short line to vote…Not too much of a delay
—But it was enough.

We walked holding hands. First came noise, then came the news
as people ran past.

The sunlight was dimmed – sirens wailing…a crushing sound
as towers crashed down.

We remember it – it was a roaring silence.
So impossible.

We walked together. Thousands walking together.
Walking in silence.

Friends and lovers – gone. We remember those we lost and
cherish those we found.

The scenes are burn scars – always to be encountered —
on September’s morn.

Single Red Rose

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To Lucinda, Whoever You Were

KEN8 (2)

What I know of you for certain is only what’s recorded on your tombstone
and two grainy old photographs. Certainly, you were once a girl. A wife.
A mother. You were a survivor of interesting times. Of Huguenot stock.
You knew duty. Did you know love? Did you know peace?
You were the family nurse, then a widow, a “Relict”, they said for decades.
The custom then, it sounds harsh today: Relict. But do we judge you unfairly?

You were a hard woman for hard times and kept a Bible cocked and loaded.
You weren’t afraid to use it. It was your preferred weapon.
Two of five children quickly fled when they could. A darling little girl
died as an infant. How you mourned. A son went insane, locked up forever.
One last daughter, a constant companion to the end, disappeared
without a trace. Are there really two people in your grave?

Your grudges piled up, un-dismissed for a lifetime. Cloying sweetness
masked failed manipulation. Did you feel unloved?
I think you were loved in spite of yourself. Your son fled to
marry an Irish “Papist” …oh the tears…oh the horror!
With hope in his heart, he gave his daughter your name: Lucinda:

— Illumination —

and she lived up to the name in ways you could never comprehend.

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Discovering Places: The Great House at Aztec

Brick and Stone: Architecture and Preservation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometime around 1085 people started moving north along the great road coming out of the desert. Eventually they arrived on the banks of the Animas and San Juan Rivers near present day Aztec New Mexico. We don’t know what they called the rivers or how they called themselves but we can be sure they probably came from the south, from the Chaco Canyon cultural centers or outposts about eighty miles to the south. We also don’t know what motivated their journey. Were they sent north by some authority to establish satellite communities? Did they follow a respected leader? Were they escaping overcrowding or shortages at Chaco? These people had a culture based on a strong religion, living in established towns, impressive and durable stone construction, farming, and efficient utilization of natural resources. They were essentially farmers who grew corn, beans and squash. They supplemented their diet with wild game and…

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The Last Snow

We had fresh snow up on the mountain this week. Now it lingers in the crevices and shaded alcoves. It will be gone from my sight next week but I’m sure patches will linger at the top. They say the Eskimos have 100 names to describe snow. Where I was born and raised and lived for sixty-five years we had about four names for winter precipitation. We had snow, sleet, ice and freezing rain. Here in the desert there are a few new forms that I don’t have simple names for. My language fails me when I try to describe it. We have an odd type of falling ice pellets the size of rice grains that bounce and roll around on the ground or ping off your windshield. It is dry, not wet like sleet. I got caught in what was essentially a slush blizzard this past week. Not snow flakes and not sleet but coagulated gobs of slush falling and covering the roadway. Cars were sliding off the pavement and we had over an inch accumulated in just a few minutes. It was blowing and sticking on hillsides and vertical objects. Tumbleweeds were draped in the stuff. That is what produced the snow on the mountain. The most amazing thing is an early morning ice crystal display…not like a dense fog but millions of shining ice crystals suspended in the air reflecting the sunlight. Usually the sky is a clear blue and calm and full of winking, glinting ice crystals floating suspended in the air.  This is desert and the sun and dryness will end it after a short while so you have to get up early to see it. There are probably names for these wintery things but I think naming sometimes takes away the mystery and wonder.

Today is the first day of April and spring is taking control in the valley. My Bleeding Hearts are blooming and the Lilacs are about the burst open. I took a walk through Albuquerque’s Botanical Garden this week and the place was an explosion of spring color. Some plants are slow to wake up but others are going crazy.

Rosemary, the herb, grows like a shrub here and some people have rosemary hedges in their yards. I always thought it was something that people nursed in a pot on the window sill until I moved here. It is not uncommon the see it escaped and growing along the roadside in places out in the desert. I was surprised to see that it has a delicate blue flower in the spring. I have a few modest plants growing in pots but they are not happy being confined and seldom survive the winter. I guess I need to set them free.

Our native cactus varieties won’t be blooming for a while but there were several exotic (to us) varieties blooming at the garden. We live in the northern reaches of the Chihuahuan Desert at a high elevation…5,000 feet or more. The lower Sonoran Desert varieties will bloom earlier than ours. To me, cactus flowers look incongruous with the plant. They are often showy and brightly colored while the plant itself is grumpy looking  and thorn covered. Our twisted Cholla cactus varieties will have large, hibiscus-like flowers later in the year and the Prickly Pears will bloom and produce fruit that people use for jelly.

The Japanese Garden has a way to go  before it is in full bloom but there are splashes of color mixed with the bare branches and evergreens. Azaleas are blooming in places…mostly a bold orange color. White lilacs and redbuds are blooming. One of my favorites is the Blue Atlas Cedar — an evergreen conifer but of a pale blue color.

I do a lot of container gardening so I like to see what they put together in their  ceramic and stone pots. It is different by the season. Now, in the early spring, they have kale, pansies and snapdragons. I’m not a fan of kale but this pale variety looked good mixed in with the other  plants in the blue container. I like azaleas but my rabbits would probably like them better and they would be hard to grow up on the mesa top where I live. The intense sun is my nemesis more than the heat and low humidity.


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