Archive for the ‘In the neighborhood’ Category

‘Better weird than not at all’

May 16, 2020

I settled for a snap of the balloons because old guys taking snaps of children unrelated to them is mega-creepy.

One of the kids next door celebrated her sixth birthday yesterday.

There was a party of sorts in the cul-de-sac. Instead of hugs and kisses, she got social distancing and masks; in lieu of cake and the slicing thereof, we noshed on individual cupcakes in either chocolate or vanilla.

From the vantage point of someone who turned 6 in 1960, it seemed a strange way to mark the Great Leap Forward from kindergarten to first grade. Or it did until I recalled that when I reached this milestone Elvis was being discharged from the Army, a few thousand of his countrymen were heading off to Vietnam, and Francis Gary Powers was enjoying an unscheduled layover in the Soviet Union.

So, then, as now, there was lots of weirdness going on, and not just in your friendly neighborhood cul-de-sac, either.

“It may be weird, but better weird than not at all,” as a neighbor and I agreed.

A hummingbird had a bird’s-eye view of the party from her nest in a pine just off our driveway. According to Audubon New Mexico, the hummers lay two eggs a half inch long in nests the size of a walnut shell, and this one has done a fine job of camouflaging her tiny nursery. Herself and I saw the little nipper zip to the limb yesterday as we were leaving for a bike ride; I took a closer squint and spotted the nest.

It takes a bit of squinting to find this hummer guarding the kids.

The rearrangement

May 3, 2020

Living Room v.2.0: The Lockdown Edition.

I think the ol’ lockdown managed to crawl up everyone’s keister pretty much all simultaneous-like yesterday.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla blew a hairball on the living-room carpet, which is white, because of course it is. So we started moving the furniture off it in preparation for a thorough wash and brush-up, then abruptly decided: To hell with this giant white barf magnet.

This 14-by-12-foot beast came with the house when we bought it, as did the large brown leather sofa and green leather easy chair with ottoman that sat on it. And boom, just like that, we were sick of the lot of ’em.

We don’t get a lot of hummingbirds at our lone feeder, but we have a few regulars.

“Right, off you go!” we said.

The carpet got a good vacuuming and a spot-cleaning and a listing on Facebook Marketplace. Free to good home, etc. In no time at all a young woman whose sister was moving into a new apartment rolled by to collect it.

The large leather items got shifted to a largely unused area, across from the cat tower, facing the picture window, between the living room proper and the dining room.

The furniture that had been in that space — an American-made sofa and rocker we bought from a local outfit in Bibleburg, Hearthstone, sadly no longer with us — got moved into the living room, atop a much smaller patterned area rug pirated from the dining room.

Of course, there was much vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, critiquing, adjusting, more critiquing, readjusting, and what have you. Also, some discussion about feeding the leather bits to the insatiable maw of Facebook Marketplace as well.

Finally, there were cold beverages on the back patio, for us and for the hummingbirds.

After dinner the neighbors to the west called an ice-cream social, outdoors, in the cul-de-sac, featuring homemade chocolatey goodness. Most of the ’hood turned out for a treat, some casual gossip, and the nightly 8 p.m. howl, all with proper plague management, of course (bring your own spoon and chairs).

The ice-cream maker was hoping his amateur-league baseball might resume soon. Another neighbor was thinking about her son, a freshly minted Marine awaiting deployment. The new parents on the corner couldn’t make it, because infants could give a rat’s ass about ice-cream socials in the cul-de-sac, even if they knew what rats’ asses, ice-cream socials, and cul-de-sacs were. And a more experienced dad was dozing with his youngest in front of “PBS Kids.”

We were just happy to be there, and rid of that damn’ carpet. It’s the little things.

Hello in there

April 11, 2020

Herself and Herself the Elder enjoy analog FaceTime at the Dark Tower.

Locked doors. Empty streets. Everyone’s bunkered up and wearing masks, like poilus in a Ypres trench awaiting a gas attack.

Social distancing isn’t new to me. I’ve worked from home for nearly 30 years, and I have come to relish my solitude. My colleagues these days are mostly in Missoula and Boulder. Some days I find it hard to believe that I ever got anything done in a crowded newsroom, which may have pioneered the open-plan office everyone else soon came to loathe.

But even I get twitchy now and then, especially since I was homebound early on with a broken ankle. The COVID-19 may be out there, but the cabin fever is most definitely in here. There are bicycles to be reviewed, an ankle to be rehabilitated. And anyway, jolly old Doc O’Grady feels it’s prudent to take society’s temperature now and then.

So I limp around the ’hood for a spell, shout back and forth with the neighbors. One has retired and has a new dog. Another is working overtime and has an old dog, gamely hanging on, like the rest of us. Next door they’re turning a pile of gravel into a base for a backyard shed. The other next door is exhausted from babysitting grandchildren.

Sometimes we ride the bikes. Herself the Elder needs regular resupply, soda, wine, and Kleenex, along with a bit of analog FaceTime through her bedroom window. A little girl squeals, “I have a bike!” So do I, sweetie. I bet you don’t have to give yours back after a few weeks. At least, I hope not.

The Italians sing. New Yorkers clap. Here in the ’Burque ’burbs we venture out briefly, if only to say, “Hello in there … hello … and have you heard the latest socially distant episode of Radio Free Dogpatch?”

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: Cheap, cheap, sings the Radio Free Dogpatch birdie. I used the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic, recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was as usual, in GarageBand. Once again the background music is by Your Humble Narrator, assembled in the iOS version of GarageBand with some John Prine licks in mind.

Going viral

March 24, 2020

The Menaul trailhead, shot from a social distance.

Beyond hoarding beans, buttwipe and bullets, people don’t seem to be taking The Bug seriously in these parts.

Or they didn’t on Sunday, anyway.

When Herself and I bicycled over to the Dark Tower to deliver some vino to Herself the Elder, we passed three trailhead parking lots that were jam-packed and overflowing onto neighboring streets.

Call me crazy, but this seemed like antisocial distancing to me, on a par with slow dancing in a burning building, the New Mexican equivalent of sunburned bro-brahs wearing bikini babes like earbuds during spring break in Florida.

Maybe the authorities were watching, too. Maybe our crowds were not out of the ordinary.

Because come Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham went on TV to lay down the law. Or the advisory, anyway.

The nut graf? Keep your distance, preferably behind closed doors.

“There are a lot of people out and about,” she said. “This creates risk. This creates exposure.”

The Piedra Lisa trailhead, which looked like the drop-off lane at an elementary school.

I created a few exposures myself with the old iPhone camera, and here they are, all shot from a proper social distance, if only to avoid an ass-kicking (“Hey, man, whatchoo taking pictures of, huh? You work for my old lady?”).

And when I got back to El Rancho Pendejo I created another podcast.

Yes, yes, yes — it’s a socially distant, viral episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

 

 

 

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I recorded this episode with an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic straight to the MacBook Pro, using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was in GarageBand. The background music is “Buddy,” an iMovie jingle. The other sound effects were liberated from the GarageBand loops library. And those musical references? The musicologists among you will be familiar with “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC); “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin); “Happy Trails” (Roy Rogers and Dale Evans); “Get It While You Can” (Janis Joplin); “The Last Waltz” (The Band); and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder” (Johnny Cash). These are not necessarily the folks who wrote the music, but the ones who came to mind as I was writing the podcast.

Rebooted

March 11, 2020

If spring hasn’t quite sprung, well, it’s thinking about it.

It was a pretty pleasant morning yesterday in the Duke City, so I bit the bullet and ventured out for a short walk around the flattest parts of our neighborhood, which made it a very short walk indeed.

I did a bit with both crutches, and a bit with one, and a bit with none; chatted up a few neighbors who wished to plumb the depths of my stupidity; and finally headed back to the rancheroo for a spot of lunch.

Then I pulled off the Darth Gimp boot and its Vasque Clarion companion, leaned back in my chair, and put both dogs up on a footstool to rest awhile.

Just out of reach. Like a cat.

Not until I settled in and got comfortable did the smoke alarm go off.

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

Etc.

So I put on the Darth Gimp boot and its Vasque Clarion companion, levered myself out of the chair, crutched into the entryway … and it stopped.

“Turkish, are you fucking with me? I asked. The question seemed relevant, if a tad mystical.

For starters, as all cat people know, your cat will never assign you some vital task until you are settled in and comfortable.

Second, the night Turkish died, as Herself and I were settling into bed, and I rested my right hand on the spot where our big, big boy would usually lounge for a bit, the bathroom light suddenly turned itself on, and then off.

Now there was this. And it wasn’t lost on me that I had instructed that my old comrade’s remains be cremated.

I crutched into the kitchen for a fresh battery, because why the hell not, and the smoke detector started up again. So I returned with the battery and a small stepladder, and — praying there wasn’t a giant, pissed-off, blue-eyed spectral cat in a cloud of smoke up there somewhere  — made the swap without incident.

Turkish always liked the high spots.

 

I got some wild, wild life

February 21, 2020

“Take a picture, here in the daylight, oh oh.
They got some wild, wild life.”

Herself had buggered off to Florida for a bit of R&R, and Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Force) was in his quarters, decoding vital transmissions from HQ (which appear on the underside of his eyelids), when his adjutant, Miss Mia Sopaipilla, bypassed the chain of command to inform me that we had a muj’ inside the wire.

Little fella — I know, I know, how binary of me — hung out for the better part of quite some time, touring the patio, napping under our bedroom window, and finally scooting up a backyard tree and into the arroyo.

Maybe his old lady was out of town too? Checkin’ in; checkin’ out, uh huh. I got a wild, wild life.

 

Meanwhile, in the Course of human events. …

July 20, 2019

“Don’t tread on me … especially with those knobby tires.”

Herself and I were out for our morning constitutional when we rolled up on this lollygagger here.

Gopher snake? Bullsnake? Beats me. I check for rattles, and if I don’t see any, I go all like, “Ooo, cool-lookin’ snake.”

This vagrant wasn’t loitering in a median, soliciting contributions, though the practice retains the usual protections, no matter what (or if) Trudy Jones thinks. And in fairly short order he (or she) had drawn quite a throng of admirers — two cyclists, a roofer, and a gent with two kids in his truck.

After a while, the roofer persuaded the snake — without resort to cops, courts, fines, or confinement — to abandon the right of way for safety’s sake. And we all — cyclists, family, roofer and reptile — went back to enjoying Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Badaboom, badabing

November 30, 2018

Maybe we need to get Mexico to build us a new Wall.
This American model isn’t getting the job done.

This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I said I could use a couple of bucks to tide me over until the end of the month.

 

What’s for breakfast?

November 20, 2018

Back In the Day®, when the cops decided to grab some shuteye during a shift, they called it “cooping.” But this Cooper’s hawk isn’t napping on the job. He’s up early and inspecting the menu from our backyard maple.

I saw this when I stepped out to shoot the sunrise this morning. Our bird feeders have become a bird feeder.

Winning: a meditation on the midterms

November 9, 2018

Remember how it feels to lose?

We ought to keep that in mind when we win.

The only people who should be dancing in the end zone are the cheerleaders. And they’d best be full of Gatorade, ’cause this game is only at halftime.

Yes, yes, yes, it’s another Friday Afternoon Club(bing) from Radio Free Dogpatch. But you won’t need the performance-enhancing drugs to get through this one. You’ve probably stayed clean through longer political ads.

“Democrats eat babies.” This one features a heavily Photoshopped image of a smiling Nancy Pelosi with a platter full of tiny arms and legs, a hammer-and-sickle bib, and barbecue sauce smeared over her lips.

“Republicans boink babies.” Well, we won’t need the Photoshop for this one.* But still, you get the idea, right?

* Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Comity only goes so far around here.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand. The background music is “Tiny Town” from ZapSplat, and the “National Emblem March” was performed by the U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band.