Carlos Rey

I’m always amazed at those slabs of ancient
tree trunks that show how time passes.
A seed fell and sprouted and took root.
Maybe in 1492 or 1215.
There was a drought. There was a fire.
There were good years and bad.

My ancient Juniper tree lives on at the back
of a my mostly unused piece of land.
Its age gives it a certain distinction.
How old can it be?
I named the tree Carlos Rey for it surely
once belonged to the King of Spain.

These trees grow slowly in the high desert.
They experience things that we never notice.
Once they get a good start, a toehold, they
can go on for centuries.
Carlos Rey was twig when Coronado and
the Franciscans camped just down the hill.

Other old trees nearby show old jagged scars;
ax marks where a shepherd or soldier
stole a branch for firewood or shelter.
Even the scars are ancient.
Carlos Rey went unnoticed and unscathed.
Endurance and survival are the keys.

Carlos has seen good years and bad years.
I think we must be in what will be known
as bad years when some future scientist
ponders our age – our rings.
I see no small Junipers – only ancient ones.
The climate seems angry and uncooperative.

Life is precious. It has a memory to share.
There’s a man in Sussex who counts the rings
of a Stradavari or a Montagnana or
a Matteo Groffiller.
With years of practice, and in the right hands,
the old tree rings sing with the voice of angels.


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Famous or Obscure — Music That Shaped Your Life

Every Tuesday is Vinyl Night at my local micro-brewery in Bernalillo. Stuart brings in some refurbished portable stereo equipment and we play vinyl records or at least music that was originally released on vinyl…sometimes we stretch the rules but that’s how it is supposed to work. We have been walking a modern jazz tightrope for a few weeks but we have gone through surfer music, The Who, The Doors, and a couple weeks of old blues records. Last week we staggered into a more eclectic vein of music…Joe Cocker, Donovan, Mark Knopfler and a few others. Last night we landed on Leon Redbone…followed by Asleep at the Wheel. A lot of this music brings back old memories. We trade stories and memories as the music plays.

Someone asked an interesting question: What if you were under hospice care and the doctor told you that you had time for only one more record or CD…what would you choose? A couple people chose Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I can see that. I chose the Abraxas album by Santana…I want to go out dancing, I guess. What would you pick?

That question reminded me of another question of a while back that turned into a more detailed exercise. The question: What were the 20-25 music albums or singles that helped shape your life? I had to think about it for a while. I came up with a list of music…some famous and some pretty obscure. I’m sure this list changes over time as my mood or remembrances change but here is what I came up with at the time and it is still pretty much my list…

I put in several “Best of…” because the actual album name escapes me or there are too many to list. This is not a ranked list – no numbers allowed.

  • Peter and the Wolf (composed by Sergei Prokofiev) Technically not an album but it fits in this category. I WAS Peter as a little kid.
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (Simon & Garfunkel) Hello Darkness, my old friend…
  • Introducing the Beatles — well, of course. The 1st US Beatles album.
  • In the Wind (Peter, Paul & Mary) – Blowing in the Wind was my high school senior class song…we had already lost a guy (Bernie) in Viet Nam and would lose a few more.
  • Elton John (by Elton John) I remember the first time I heard it on the radio…like it was yesterday.
  • The Mamas & the Papas (1966) (the Mamas & the Papas) Big sound and clear voices…almost any of their albums. Largely overlooked now.
  • Shankar, Menuhin, Rampal – Improvisations-East Meets West, vol 3 (Yehudi Menuhin, Jean-Pierre Rampal and Ravi Shankar) – I still listen to it after so many years…sitar, flute and violin.
  • Feliciano! (Jose Feliciano) — I saw him in concert just about a month ago, 41 years after my first Feliciano concert.
  • Close to the Edge (Yes)   You can lose yourself in this.
  • Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the Beatles). I actually studied this in a college English lit class.
  • In Search of the Lost Chord (Moody Blues) Almost any Moody Blues but this one in particular.
  • Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton (too many Clapton albums to list them all)
  • Common Ground (Paul Winter Consort) You have to hear it to understand…can’t explain it.
  • Woodstock (1st soundtrack album) You had to be there…Dang, I missed it.
  • I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye – single) …college party music
  • Abbey Road (the Beatles) Parting was such sweet sorrow. This was really the end – the last Beatles recording sessions.
  • Led Zeppelin II (Led Zeppelin) The guy downstairs in my college dorm played this loud and constantly and his stereo was against the heat radiator and the whole building reverberated with Led Zeppelin.
  • The Best of The Doors (The Doors ) – only because it has all the songs from various albums that I remember.   – Also see Led Zeppelin, above…same guy.
  • Songs You Know By Heart (Jimmy Buffett) Parrot Heads arise!
  • Graceland (Paul Simon) Sound track for a few road trips.
  • Greatest Hits Volume 1 & 2 (James Taylor) Sweet Baby James…
  • Songs in the Key of Life (Stevie Wonder) I always liked “As” as a perfect love song. Just as kindness knows no shame/Know through all your joy and pain/That I’ll be loving you always.
  • Beethoven: Triple Concerto & Choral Fantasy (Itzak Perlman, Yo Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim) I’ve written about this before…I can hear it now in my head.
  • Dire Straits (Dire Straits) Recalls a certain time – still like Mark Knopfler
  • Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone (Yo Yo Ma) The very definition of “sublime”. I’m a fool for YoY o Ma…I can’t help it.
  • Abraxas (Santana) Yeah…I’ll go out with that one.

The End of Summer – New Mexico

We only have a few days of summer left. Fall officially starts on September 23. Can flu season be far behind?  They are already playing football. Baseball is in the late season frenzy.  I thought I’d reminisce a little about summer here in our neck of the woods. (OK– you have to look closely for the woods but it’s there.)

Summer here in the Rio Grande valley is most often viewed as monsoon season and I’ve already written about that a while back  Thanks to El Nino we have had quite a bit of rain. I’ve never seen the desert so green. The rain comes and goes and usually lasts maybe a half hour. Sometimes it goes crazy…like when it washed out the railroad bridge and stopped the RailRunner for a weekend.  Flash floods are dangerous — there have been a lot of them lately and some fatalities. We have had some serious forest fires during our recent drought and heavy rain after a forest fire is devastating.  I found a video of a flood destroying Dixon’s Orchard following a forest fire up in the Jemez Mountains…this is from 2011.

I didn’t have to contend with a flash flood. My only problem was the rain-out of an Isotopes minor league baseball game. I was pretty lucky, I guess.   I got a rain check and was able to see a game on a dryer day. We still lost.  The Isotopes did not have a good season this year and attendance was down due to the many rain-outs.

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We still have the best green chile race in all of baseball.

I am sometimes critical of Albuquerque’s city administration and the way they do things but I must say that they seem to know how to put on a street festival. The city had four Summerfests scheduled around town and I made it to two of them…Route 66 on Central Avenue and the Westside on Ellison. The crowds were quite large and well behaved. There was good food and good music. I took a bunch of pictures but I missed having my camera ready when the topless women paraded down Central Avenue…dang.

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Labor Day weekend snuck up on us pretty quick. For the past 27 years the city of Bernalillo has hosted the New Mexico State Wine Festival and it has been pretty popular. It’s not just about wine…there are crafts and lots of food and music. I went last year and enjoyed it — so you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when they announced that they would no longer be holding the annual wine festival.  Accounts vary but it seems that attendance has been dropping and there are other wine festivals in the area. Isleta Casino picked it up and hosted an indoor wine and jazz festival — which I went to. It was very nice but I like outdoor events if the weather is good.  I did buy some wine and tasted my share.

Meanwhile, Bernalillo decided to replace the wine festival with the Mountain West Brew Fest…going from wine to craft beer. I was skeptical — we have a lot of craft beer festivals all year long. Almost every other weekend you can find a beer festival somewhere nearby. I didn’t quite know how this was going to turn out….but it was great. Unlike some places, Bernalillo is very laid back and has a very casual vibe and that set the tone for the Mountain West Beer Festival. I really didn’t know we had so many breweries. I admit that I’ve not been able to keep up with the two or more that open each month…Albuquerque is awash with craft beer. This was a chance to get a taste from over thirty local breweries and a bunch from out of state. Now, I’m a home brewer and I know something about making good beer. I have a medal and a trophy to prove it. I did not have a bad beer during the many tasting booths that I stopped at. I had some that were not to my liking…style-wise…but they were still good at what they were trying to do. Of course I took some pictures…  It was another beautiful day.

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The Monks at Christ in the Desert monastery have been very busy

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Nothing wrong with the camera — friend Stu was getting blurry

The Monks at Christ in the Desert are the makers of a line of beer called Monks’ Ales. They are in a pretty isolated place up on the Chama River so some of the actual brewing has been contracted out closer to town but they are very much involved. They have been propagating and growing native Neomexicanus hops.  New Mexico has it’s own variety of wild hops and the monks are pretty much it as far as acquiring any…unless you want to scour the mountains on your own looking for hops…which people do.  I finally got to taste a beer made with Neomexicanus hops and I have to say that I liked it but it was a little unique….mostly in the lingering finish.  These are not bittering hops — they have low acid levels, I think — so they are finishing hops, I think.  I also think that there is a lot of mythology out there on these wild hops because not many people have any experience with them.  I’d like to get my hands on some but the monks are pretty stingy.

By now you might have the impression that I drank my way through the summer.  I can see how that might have happened but, I assure you, I was sober and righteous most of the time.  Well, with the exception of Tuesday nights. Tuesday is Vinyl Night at Kaktus Brewing in Bernalillo and Stu (you’ve seen his blurry picture above) and I try to keep some music going — mostly music that is on vinyl records or first appeared on vinyl. We make some exceptions. The range of music has gone from surfer music to The Doors to lots of Jazz to The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, The Who and a little bit of Donovan. We were able to squeeze in Mark Knopfler’s Shangri La CD (not vinyl) this week. We are heading toward a western swing night before too long.

But — I’ve done other stuff. The Volcanoes and the BioPark show up in this blog pretty often as does Sandia Peak.  I really, REALLY, want to go fishing so I’m hoping that happens soon.

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Wednesday Roam…Thinking About Clocks

About a week or so ago a writer friend posted a short piece about using a metronome in music. She is a musician — I am not, but her discussion continued to where she was thinking about time keeping, generally, and reminiscing about clocks.  That got me to thinking.

It made me realize that all but one of the clocks in my house are digital clocks. The lone exception is a smallish antique-looking mantel clock that runs on a battery and doesn’t keep correct time. It’s flawed somehow in its inner workings and lies to me every day. I change batteries from time to time and reset the hours and minutes every week or so but it immediately loses or adds time. As a clock it is worthless but I keep it anyway.  Sort of like penance. It’s an imperfect world.

I unconsciously went to digital clocks. I never planned to, but I think there is something accusatory about the face of a traditional analog clock. It shows a full twelve hour span of time and seems somewhat adversarial. It sits there and ticks off the minutes….”where have you been for so long?” or ”you should have left five minutes ago” or ”when do you think you will finally get up?”  I don’t need that kind of mocking attitude…I have a cat for that.

Digital clocks are quiet – no ticking. They only display the time for that particular moment that you are looking at them. They seem totally objective and unconcerned with my procrastination. “If you want to dilly-dally the whole day away that’s your call…it’s none of my business”.  The thing I dislike most about digital clocks is the sound of the alarm. The manufacturers seem to delight in making the alarm, well, very alarming. They buzz and screech or make some sort of indescribably irritating noise.

The sounds that I like best from a clock are the bells and chimes that ring out the hours. I remember a few from churches in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan… Most were very noble sounding bells. There were dueling clocks in Perugia in Umbria — the town hall clock had one that sounded like someone beating a cast-iron plate with a hammer while the church across the piazza had a clock with a true bell but they didn’t always agree on the time. The town hall would clang out the hours and a couple minutes later the church bells would issue a correction. You knew you were in Italy. Here’s a YouTube video — the bells seem to be more in sync but you get the idea.  I warn you…it’s noisy.

I used to go SCUBA diving and got used to wearing one of those black waterproof dive watches. It would tell me all sorts of things and was always — almost always — correct. Once you figured out the controls using tiny little, elfin-sized buttons, you were all set. I could have military time, days and dates, stopwatch, and even regular digital hours and minutes.  I’ve had several of these watches over the years and the weakest part was always the wristband. The last one I had used an odd size (in width) wristband and when the band broke I couldn’t find a replacement. The watch worked fine.  I decided to buy a cheap replacement until I had the time and opportunity to find the right wristband. I chose an analog wristwatch with an expandable metal band like watches I had years ago. I actually liked the way it looked…my daughter called it “a big-boy watch”, not one of those black, rubber dive watches.  It has that accusatory face but they have tried to mitigate that by only having a few numbers with the hours mostly designated by tick-marks. It only has ’12’, ‘6’, and ‘9’. Where the ‘3’ should be is a little window that tells me what day and date it is, in English and Spanish — half the day I get English and the other half I get Spanish. I figure that the Spanish part indicates siesta time…that works for me. Oddly enough, the watch is made in Japan….go figure.

The original post that got me thinking about clocks is here:

The Triple — Wednesday Roam

I’m not a musical person…not a musician. One of my regrets is that I never mastered a musical instrument. I played the clarinet in fifth grade but was never good at it and that wasn’t my choice of instrument –the school band director assigned it to me. The clarinet is reeded and if played correctly it can make a pleasant sound. I, on the other hand, made screeching sounds. I always thought the clarinet was a sad instrument and I could make it cry as if in pain every time I picked it up. My band career was very short. There was an ugly falling out between me and the band director…that’s all I’m going to say. Benny Goodman and Pete Fountain had nothing to fear.

Later I managed to play Good King Wenceslas on my aunt’s spinet piano and much later I figured out how to play Norwegian Wood on a mandolin. I can play Oh Susannah on the harmonica. That’s about it.

I have an eclectic taste in music and favor what is called World Music (Whirled Music?)coming from other countries. American Blues, Jazz and Swing, I like a lot as well as classic Rock and Roll. I like Ragtime and real early – King Oliver and Bessie Smith – blues. Each Tuesday night my little local micro-brewery has “Vinyl Night” when people bring in their old vinyl records and we have sort of a resident ‘DJ’ who keeps things organized by deciding what the theme might be each week. Last night it was The Rolling Stones and The Who. Next week it will be Cream. We are heading toward Pink Floyd and then circling back towards Motown.  Sort of a road trip. We had about three weeks of jazz, two of blues and a great surfer music night. It is pretty eclectic but we don’t mix things up too much on a single night. Tuesdays are very slow nights so we have the place to ourselves on most Tuesdays. The joint is jumpin’.

About a third to almost half of my vinyl collection is classical music. My first exposure to ”real” music was classical music on my dad’s old 78 rpm records and my mom’s love of opera. My brother can’t handle opera today but he was older and heard more than I did. I’m OK with some of it.

Kids growing up in the 1950s were exposed to classical music at a young age. The background music of many of the old cartoons would be excerpts from classical music. I can still listen to something and recognize a short segment that was lifted to be background for an old cartoon.  Those days are gone…sadly, I think.

I’m ending this little blog post up with one of my favorites: Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Apparently it isn’t performed often — there needs to be three soloists who can handle it and each other. It is my “go to” piece when I need some perking up. There are other versions but I’m a fool for Yo Yo Ma so here it is….enjoy. You might catch a few little musical phrases that take you back to those old cartoons or maybe even some old TV westerns.