Archive for the ‘In the neighborhood’ Category

Glide path

June 28, 2020

“On your left! On your LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT, GODDAMNIT! AIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!”
2018 file photo by Chuck Jagermeister

Turns out it was a glider pilot who augured in yesterday near the Menaul trailhead, a spiky area from which Herself and I have collected ouchy souvenirs of various ground-level mishaps.

“Get the tweezers, Bactine, and whiskey, hon’, we got a long day ahead of us.”

Fire on the mountain

June 26, 2020

As we left a line of firefighters began working their way up that hill from the left. Must’ve been fun doing it in the dark last night. Maybe not.

Somebody, man, god, or devil, got careless with combustibles here in the ’hood last night.

Details are elusive, but somehow a hillside about a mile from us got lit up at stupid-thirty last night, while we were abed.

The smoke-eaters must’ve gotten right on top of the thing because the evacuees were all back in their homes in a matter of hours. And this morning things seemed to be in the mopping-up stage.

Not what you like to see as the weather heats up ahead of a Fourth of July weekend. In fact, not what you like to see, period.

Summer

June 20, 2020

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy … for a wall-hopping deer.

Summer is only just arriving down here, but it must have come a little earlier to this deer’s neighborhood.

We’ve been noticing deer poop in the grass, and caught glimpses on the wildlife cam of the jug-eared socialists nibbling nocturnally at the undersized fruit on the pear tree.

But yesterday, in broad daylight, I saw this one stroll casually from the street side of the house right through a neighbor’s gate. From there it was an easy leap into our back yard for a bit of tasty grass and a laydown in the shade.

And now for something completely different

June 1, 2020

“If you want anything done in this yard you’ve got to meow
until you’re blue in the mouth,” says Miss Mia Sopaipilla.

We’ve been cocooning a bit, I suppose.

It’s not easy to watch America doggedly screwing its head even further up its own arse, especially while striving to make some novel observation about the practice. The bon mot proves elusive. So we’ve turned our gaze elsewhere.

The back yard has needed work for a while now, and it’s been getting some. Weeds pulled, vines excised, lilacs pruned, pond rock and red mulch laid down, balky gate repaired, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

In the process we discovered a few new aches and pains along with an old faucet and four sprinkler-system heads we didn’t know we had. They could be part of some prehistoric irrigation network; for sure there are a couple real anachronisms on the other side of the yard, metal jobbers buried in the pine duff like the plungers on land mines.

We’re not great with roses, but occasionally we get lucky.

The apple tree by the kitchen window has had the schnitz. All the neighbors say it’s never been worth a damn, and we’re starting to agree, though Spike the Terrorist Deer, that notorious outside agitator, seems fond of its bitter, undersized fruit.

So that will probably come down directly, along with a Siberian elm that is more than a match for my skills with a shovel and bad language. Probably have to take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

The neighbors with the little girls have partnered with another couple up the street to form a collective of sorts. Between them they have five munchkins to educate and entertain, and they share other interests as well, so it seems a great leap forward.

The gang performs a daily bicycle/scooter rodeo that relies heavily upon our steep driveway for a launching ramp, so we’re making our own small contribution. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Elsewhere in the cul-de-sac, a four-legged neighbor went west. Daisy was a sweet old Lab who, with her cousin Gunner, served our little community as a combination of early warning system and welcome wagon.

Gunner is deaf, and a bit shy, but Daisy had been known to stride into homes like a Monty Python bobby, as if to enquire, “Wot’s all this then?” Their human has already arranged a new companion for Gunner, a black Lab pup tentatively named Henry.

Beyond our immediate ’hood, Herself the Elder’s assisted-living home has undergone a round of Bug® testing, and the all-clear has been sounded, though the lockdown remains in force.

Last Friday we delivered a load of Asian food for the joint. Pre-Bug®, Herself had been taking her mom out on Fridays for a bit of shrimp fried rice, and we decided to revive the practice as a take-out deal after Daisy and Gunnar’s person said he’d been doing something similar for his mom.

Then we thought, “Why not spread the wealth a bit?” From each according to his ability, etc. So everybody got some, including us, because I am a sucker for a six-pack of gyoza and pretty much anything else I don’t have to cook.

Speaking of wealth, when the light is right we can enjoy what the previous owner of El Rancho Pendejo called “the golden hour.” Once the day’s chores are finished we park ourselves on the back patio with frosty beverages in hand, admire our handiwork (such as it is), and hope to pan a little color from the dung as it all runs downhill.

The golden hour. “Well done, Yahweh,” as Doc Sarvis once said.

‘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.