To All the Birds I’ve Loved…

Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala

A post previously put up in October of 2008 on Open Salon.


Caveat lector
This is a long post of mostly photographs with some notes and comments along the way.

I’m not a terrific bird photographer, it wouldn’t take you long to find others who are spectacular at this craft. I’m an ok bird photographer. But I love birds.

It is, however, extraordinarily difficult to photograph birds, and I’ve given a couple of examples below. I think in part it’s because they seem to move about in a different sense of time than we do. That is understandable somewhat when you consider how short their lives are compared to how we occupy our own time.

There are many things, really, that don’t match up with our sense of time. I remember being enthralled with images and presentations that skewed that sense for me. Movies like Koyaanisqatsi, or in some of Spielberg’s large scale backdrops that show dark clouds moving rapidly in the background while normal time sequences go on in the foreground. And consider this: Most of us think of the glass in our windows, indeed it’s true for any glass, as a solid. It’s not. Glass is a liquid; it just operates in a different time scale than what we can perceive. That window pane will be slightly thicker at the bottom in a generation or two because even glass in it’s own slow way is subject to the laws of gravity.

So birds move in a way that is on the other end of that spectrum from glass. Their movements are fast in a manner required to preserve their short lives for as long as possible. Which results, at least for me in my meager talents, in an exponentially greater number of shots that are filled with blurry lines than the ones that are merely decent.

The little gem at the top, the Gray-headed Kingfisher is one that demonstrates that spread of success (or failure). I have hundreds of him, and a half-dozen that I like. He’s small, only about 6 inches from tip of bill to end of tail, but what a handsome fellow. He knows I’m there and there is bright intelligence in that eye as he assesses the threat.

Now for some more. I hope you enjoy the compendium. (It really does represent a fraction of total shots to get these—and there are a couple of repeats from previous posts of mine—the Rainbow Lorikeet and Flamingos have been part of some previous blogs.)

Double Wattled Cassowary Casuarius casuarius

Even with a fast lens—taken wide open at f/1.8—this guy was difficult to capture. It didn’t help that he was in a cloistered area surrounded by tall bamboo and the light was not optimal. The shallow depth of field, necessitated by the light, means that only part of his beak and the “casque”—the keratin extension of his bill on top of his head—were in focus. You can see below, he proves my point about the difficulty of photographing birds.



Harpy Eagle Harpia harpyja 

This beauty is a very large bird. It’s extraordinary that his habitat means that he has to maneuver between the trees in a rain forest as he seeks his usual tree-dwelling prey; monkeys, coatis and sloths. His wingspan is enormous, as you can see in in this not very good shot from this set of photos of mine which makes his agility all the more amazing. Note also, in one of the shots above how large his talons are. There is no measurement of scale in the shot, but trust me, those claws and talons are enormous. The talons are about 5 inches/13 cm long—longer even than a Grizzly Bear’s.

King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa

This could be a good ad for Visine™—maybe not. This photo demonstrates a curious phenomena. All of these birds are in enclosed spaces, many behind some sort of screen or fence. If you use a shallow depth of field, and just focus on your subject you can minimize the fence or barrier and still come out with an ok shot. (And you have a good lens—this shot used the estimable Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR with a 1.7x teleconverter resulting in this being at 340mm, f/4.8, 1/60 second. I used a monopod too to stabilize the cam and lens.)

Guira Cuckoo Guira guira

This cuckoo varietal is a favorite of our own dear tequilaanddonuts. I think she likes him because of his punk hair-do. The Guira is a non-parasitical cuckoo.


Racket-tailed Roller (with molted, missing rackets) Coracias spatulatus

There’s something about seeing light blue in a bird that is pleasing, and this little gem is a perfect example. His normal habitat is the southern half of Africa. The following shows him with his rackets intact.


Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Most eagles, as you can see here and above in the Harpy too, seem to me to have a look of being permanently pissed off.

Victoria Crowned Pigeon Goura victoria

This little lady is huge—one of the largest in the pigeon family and about as big as a healthy sized chicken–about 29 inches/74cm long and almost 6 lbs. I think she’s perfectly named. It’s extraordinarily difficult to get a shot of the Victoria without some of her headdress in blurry motion—she’s a jerky bird. You can see the details in this larger version of a lucky shot.

Black Swan Cygnus atratus

These are stately beauties, but watch your step. If you get too close you may be chased; they’re very territorial.

Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Relative to another post of mine, the Saddle-billed Stork is represented in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Chestnut-breasted Malkoha Phænicophæus curviostris Look at that! Two ligatures in the same word!

Remember back to the 50s and early 60s when it was all the rage to get an alarm clock or wrist watch with pale green radioactive luminescence? The Malkoha has the same kind of bill. The slightest bit of direct sunlight on its bill blows it out in digital photographs—it has that same pale luminescent quality as those watches. I’m not sure though if it glows in the night—probably not.

White-crested Laughing Thrush Garrulax leucolophus

I love the name of this beauty. I’ve seen him several times, but never heard a peep out of him.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata

He just knows he’s special.


Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus

Unbelievable colors!



Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber

all images copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008 · all rights reserved

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Shooting Sarah Palin

It’s just a metaphor

NB: This was originally posted to Open Salon in December of 2009. I was on assignment from Legacy Books to shoot the event in appreciation and thanks for the bookstore hosting a prior book signing and promotion event for my own book, Dallas Iconography. Legacy then was granted permission to use my photos for their own promotional purposes. Some of the text tense isn’t relevant as Legacy closed within a year of the event described. A sad loss for the community, it was an exceptional place.

Also, the title is a common reference for photographers on a gig. I saw no one who wished her harm, and I certainly didn’t either in spite of my personal thoughts about her—which were not part of the work that I was doing on site.

Legacy Books is the largest independent book store in the country. It’s a mecca for the local bibliophiles. A sleek and modern masterpiece of layout and design, the store seems to welcome you to spend your time in guilt-free leisure.

Café Carina is inside the store, a coffee and espresso and sandwich bar with free Wi-Fi and a fully tricked out demonstration kitchen—a demo kitchen!  Legacy brings in a lot of cookbook authors who display their finesse and allows them to prove their books. You can browse, have a sandwich in the cafe and then browse some more. It will take some time—and that’s ok, you have time.

Legacy Book Store9:20 am, about 2 hours before SP arrived.

But it’s not just the store that makes this a wonderful destination, it’s really about the people that work there. When was the last time you went into a major chain big book box and felt like you’d found a long lost friend in one of the attending staff members? From Teri Tanner, the on-site managing partner, to the part time student stocking the shelves, the employees are proud to be on an exceptional team. They make the store an oasis of culture. Ask any employee what they’re currently reading. It won’t be a manga graphic novel—probably.

I was delighted when my publisher said that I was scheduled to have a book signing at the store. I was not disappointed—it was a great experience. I didn’t sell many books, but it was fun to be there. They invited me to come back just before Christmas to do another signing.

as you walk in
That’s my book! The one with the red pegasus on the cover—Dallas Iconography.

* * * * *

This past Friday, December 4, a juggernaut rolled into town. I didn’t see the bus—it was abandoned I think in favor of a string of SUVs. The bus is a myth of sorts anyway since it’s been leaked that Sarah doesn’t actually travel on the bus, instead opting to jet around on a medium sized chartered plane. Her support staff are on the bus. See our own LuluandPhoebe’s exposé on the bus/jet hoax here.

Sarah Palin and her entourage descended upon the cozy comfort of überconservative Collin County. I had asked the folks at Legacy Books at my own signing if they wanted a photographer “on staff” to shoot the event. I offered a no-fee license for them to use the images in print or online media in exchange for attribution. They said yes!

This was not to be a political event for me. Since I was going to be wearing a store badge that would grant me better access than even the print, photo and video journalists that flocked to the store, I had to present a detached professional mien. I came to neither bury Sarah nor praise her—I was a face obscured by a camera—a glass and metal proboscis in khaki pants.

Security was tight. They had the head of the Plano SWAT force in plain clothes standing next to the signing table. There were other ex-military folk at strategic locations. I was scrutinized with hard stares. Luckily, I had an orange ribbon around my neck with an attached name tag. I was in like Flint and beyond the barriers. I was spun around once by one of the security people, a woman who looked like she could beat me up in a nanosecond. “Are you a journalist? You’re going to have to move back on the other side of the chain…oh, sorry, you’re with the store. Never mind.”

It was a fun gig. I didn’t have to subscribe to the running commentary in the crowd waiting to see her, nor refute anything. But I do have some thoughts that have coalesced in the intervening days since the event. These are somewhat random:

  • I don’t think the event was for Sarah to connect with her fans as much as it was for her fans to connect with her. It might be a minor point, but that’s the impression I got. That is, the people were ushered by the table very rapidly. The music was amped up enough to drown out most conversations (the music was themed for the event—Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” and the like).
  • “Hi,” “What’s your name?” and “Thanks” seemed to be about the extent of the chitchat from Sarah at the table. And even though the fans were rushed through, they didn’t seem to mind. They got their 15 seconds next to their own personal rock star.
  • Sarah did not respond in any way to the constant refrain of “If you run in 2012, you got my vote.”
  • There was a dais, a platform, outside the front door of the store set up with a microphone with speakers nearby in case Sarah wanted to make some comments to the crowd. She chose not to. In fact, she made no general public statement and was not available at all to any of the journalists present. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions and were kept away from the signing desk. There was one reporter I talked to who was very frustrated. She was from Agence France-Presse working on another story in Colorado. She asked the AFP if she should attend the booksigning here and they gave her a go-ahead. She left with nothing more than interviews with store personnel and some patrons.
  • Sarah signed about 1300 books. 1000 tickets were sold for the event. If you didn’t have a ticket—the cost of which was the same as the book—you couldn’t get in line. The ticket got you a book and a place in line, there wasn’t any additional charge.
  • She usually asked for the name of the patron, which led to some confusion. While she was furiously signing the books handed to her and then pushing the book to another handler, she never wrote anything but her own name. People wanted “their signed copy,” but there was no “their” there. The signed books were shuttled to a pile that the customer had to walk to. This was done to keep the line moving—and it had to move since there was a three hour allotment for those 1000 customers.
  • I saw one black gentleman in line. I don’t remember seeing any other minorities present. It was not a diverse group, the color spectrum was almost completely homogenous.
  • Patrons had to drop all personal items, bags, coats and jackets and anything carried into the store at a bag drop. They were instructed to not take photos and to keep the line moving. Some customers ignored the camera injunction once they got through the line and some distance away on their way out, but even that made the handlers antsy.
  • You could not bring your own copy of Going Rogue to be signed. You could only get one or two books for yourself purchased from the book store.
  • Palin’s mother and father, Chuck and Sally Heath, and her Aunt Katie attended. Todd and 20-month-old Trig were standing in the background for most of the three hours. Trig appeared to want to be elsewhere and was often seen to be struggling to get out of Todd’s arms.
  • Sally Heath, Sarah’s mother, admitted that she had not yet read the book. “No one’s even given me a copy to read on the bus,” she said. (See LuluandPhoebe’s link above for info on the bus hoax.)
  • Sarah was very gracious. She looked everyone in the eye. She smiled at every person that came by. Everyone felt like they had a personal connection to her in the less than 15 seconds allotted to each.
  • She seemed a bit tired, though that did not diminish her high wattage smile. Her eyes were a bit bloodshot. (I was using several very good lenses. You can see a 100% crop— full actual size—here.)
  • Most of the event centered around people having a good time. There were only a few negative comments about “the other side.” Except for the live broadcasting conservative Christian radio talk show host going on and on about “the haters” (libruls), there really was only a couple of instances when people were not concentrating on their love of Sarah.
  • People waited in freezing weather for hours upon hours. Just before Sarah arrived, a group of VIPs were escorted to the head of the line. They did not wait out in the cold. Several reporters were seen talking to the them. I asked one of them later what the criteria was for being a VIP and he mentioned that one gentleman was involved in the Bush Library, about to begin construction on the SMU campus in Dallas. It appears that the VIPs had some sort of connection to the party apparatchik. The person the reporter talked to declined to say who pulled strings for him.
  • Everyone—I mean everyone—when leaving the signing table had a big, big smile on their face. The people at the signing loved Sarah and it was obvious they had a great time.

* * * * *

Okay, I took photos. I’ll present some of them here. Probably more than you want to see, surely more than you need to see. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret what they mean and keep my captions to a minimum. Let me mention again that the regular staff at Legacy are an amazing group of caring and kind people. If you’re anywhere in the DFW area, you should hajj your way over there.

David Lutz, 24, on the right with his father said “She’s just so real. You don’t have to peel back layer after layer to understand what she’s saying.” David was first in line having staked out his position at 10 pm the evening before—13 hours before Sarah showed up.

5:41 am

The kids didn’t want to be there. It was about 28°F too.

Having fun!

Still cold, less grumpy, still sleepy.

One of the few proactive “antis.”

Homemade fleece burkha.

Really, a delightful person. Her giggle reminded me a bit of Tequila and Donuts (yes, I’ve met the Divine Ms D).

Dawn finally came. Still having fun in the freezing temperature.

Some were ready for the wait to be over.

Mike Gallagher, the aforementioned radio talk show host and sometimes substitute for Hannity on Fox, live broadcasting the event and author of Surrounded by Idiots: Fighting Liberal Lunacy in America.

Written under “For Sarah” is “”

Wearing most of a fox probably scored some points.

Yay! The doors are open! Oh wait, it’s still two hours before she shows up. You know those Disney rides where the attendants open up a section of the serpentine line to give you the illusion of movement? Actually, it was still freezing cold outside. Everyone was so happy to get warm. They only let in a few hundred at a time though.

This was the “holding area” for people wanting to use the restroom. The signing took place on the second floor and the restrooms were on the first floor. They had bathroom passes (!) so they could get back in line on the top floor.

The scene of the signing. The chain barrier in the foreground right is where the photographers and videographers had to set up. The barrier to your left of the desk is where I was able to stand.

One of SP's fansMargaret Hill, 88 year old former pastor from Lucas, Texas. “I love Sarah Palin, I watch her all the time,” she said. “I think she talks a lot of good sense.”

Hill with Dallas Morning News Metro columnist James Ragland.

Finally, Sarah arrived.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe was wearing her trademark red, a kimono top with long sleeves and enormous open cuffs.

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXShe engaged.

Margaret Hill was among the first to greet Sarah—after the VIP line went through first. No, the VIPs did not have to wait outside in the cold.

Part of the Palin entourage included a photographer. She was using a wide angle lens that included both Sarah and the patron. The customers were given a card with a web address to see the pictures, with the option to purchase and the funds going to The card included this caption: “Thanks for going rogue with me today! Let’s stay in touch and stand up for our nation together.”

SP at Legacy Books, Frisco/Plano TXTodd was there, as was Trig.

One mother, Stephanie Shaffer of Midlothian brought her son, pictured above, and placed him on the signing table. Truett, 21 months, was wearing a shirt that read, “Don’t blame me: I can’t vote till 2025.” It was the most time that Sarah spent with any of the patrons and mentioned that their boys should get together and play. That was arranged, and it happened right in front of the photographer’s pen. The cacophony of shutter releases was startling. Shaffer was delighted. “I’ve got butterflies.

Sarah Palin look-alike

Sarah Palin look-alikeA Sarah Palin look-alike, Marilyn Phillips drove up from Glen Rose, about 100 miles southwest of Plano. She brought along her 8-week-old grandson Tripp. She even researched what kind of glasses Sarah wears and bought her own Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki frames. They go for about $400 without the lenses.

BumpitA friend mentioned that she’s probablly using a Bumpit™.

Sarah’s Aunt Katie was there too.


* * * * *


Thanks to Teri, Kyle, Jeremy, Becky, Robin and all the Legacy Books staff for welcoming me into the store and making me feel like part of the team.





all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved


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The Sunday Tao of Popper

After triangulating the backyard cicada locations and then taking the morning dirtbath ablutions, it’s time for the first afternoon nap under the living room AC vent.

A progression:

Oh wait, sneeze coming…

larger view

And then, when it gets too chilly for the under-the-AC-vent-nap, it’s time to move to the microfiber-blanket-on-top-of-a-pillow-next-to-the-windowsill-nap in case a bird comes to rest in the dwarf yaupon just outside the window. In which case, I’ll open one eye to keep track of yet another bird that belongs to me.

sunday afternoon nap
larger view

As any good supermodel knows, it’s best to completely ignore the photographer.

Have a lovely Sunday friends, from the two of us.


all photos copyright © 2011 by barry b. doyle · all rights reserved

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A Personal Hajj to Beauty

This was previously published on the now defunct site Open Salon as a digital distribution for the holidays. I also privately published the booklet shown at the bottom of this post, about 100 copies, to send to friends and those that requested a copy. It was a nice thing that the stock was quickly depleted.

I hope you did have holidays filled with hope and love and best wishes for the new year.


Pinky Troll and me on a personal quest

Happy holidays to friends and visitors. If you’ve noticed the date of my last post you’ll have figured out I’ve been absent for a while. There were some things I needed to take care of and they all seem to have worked out, at least for now. This coming year will be one that will present many transitions and it might be interesting to document some of those—we’ll see how things develop. At any rate, I might have to spend less time here. Life intrudes, but it’s nothing more than what happens to all of us—I still treasure my friends.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy, quite the opposite, but the right side of the brain has had to take a back seat lately. That changed when I tried to figure out if I was going to do anything about making a Christmas card and/or project for friends. I plunged in during the Thanksgiving weekend, though it took more time and effort that I had planned—which always seems to be the case.

Here’s the card, featuring our dear Popper. The quote on the left is a riff on The Holstee Manifesto and refers to Popper’s delight in attacking a catnip-laden mouse—hence her drug-enhanced eyes. Of course there’s no need for additives to follow the abridged or original manifesto.


It shows the cover, inside and back. On the back I’ve explained the source of the colophon I designed back when I was considering publishing my own book. Luckily, I got picked up by a real live publishing house, but that meant they had their own publisher’s mark so mine was set aside.

The poem was found in the margins of a manuscript in the Monastery of St. Paul in Corinth, Austria. It was written in Irish, probably by an Irish monk sometime during the ninth century. Pangur Bán means “white cat.”

It’s a bit hard to read the text in the above image, so I’ll transcribe.

Pangur Bán
I and Pangur Bán, my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.

Making a card has been enough for me in years past. It represents more work than purchasing a bunch of pre-made cards or duplicating the dreaded Christmas letter, but there had been something percolating in my brain for a while and I decided to do something more.

I wrote a book—I made a book. Actually, it’s a 20-page booklet. And unfortunately, since the production and distribution costs were coming out of my own pocket, it’s a limited run. Quite limited. In fact, there are only 60 in the world.

The books were a little under a sawbuck each, but that wasn’t the only costs associated. In order to protect it in mailing I purchased a box of stay flat cardboard mailers (wholesale) that guaranteed that it would not bend or fold and damage the contents—about $0.50 each. Then, because the sturdy envelope wouldn’t bend, the law of unintended consequences took hold. It had to be mailed as a package instead of an envelope, which added an additional $0.40 or so to each to make the postage a what-was-I-thinking-of $2.22 each just for stamps. And yes, the USPS didn’t have to foresight to make a $2.22 stamp just for me. So, not counting my labor (of love) that run of 60 turned out to be north of $12 or so each, which is a lot to spend on a vanity production. No matter, I can be vain.

Which led to a painful process. Triage. Who gets a book? I’m sorry that everyone I know and like and love couldn’t get one, but it just wasn’t feasible. I did send out twice as many Holstee Popper cards, but I quickly ran out of the booklets. And they weren’t just sent to my non mutual spousal friends, there were some bridal business associates that had to be included on the list.

I don’t think we had this much of a problem when we constructed our wedding invitation list 30 years ago.

So as a poor substitute, I’m recreating the booklet here with a link at the end for a PDF download, that is, if anyone’s interested.

So here commences A Personal Hajj to Beauty, a limited edition vanity press production. It was actually produced and printed by Apple—or its assigned third-party printer—via Aperture, the photo management application I use to store and manage my photos. It was easy enough to do, but since I’m a page layout artist from way back in the Aldus PageMaker days, I lamented the fine tuning and lack of feature set that a real page layout program provides. I had to invent a workaround, for example, to get the Drop Cap on the first page. The quality of what you see here is less than what you would see with the booklet in hand or in the PDF since they are exported from the application as a PDF then converted to jpegs.

Many of the images will be familiar to frequent visitors to this blog, but it’s the first time they’ve been collated in such a fashion.

Prada Marfa Book_Page_01
Front Cover

Prada Marfa Book_Page_03
Title Page

Prada Marfa Book_Page_04
Page 2, verso or the left hand of the spread that includes the next image

Prada Marfa Book_Page_05
Page 3, recto or the right hand of the spread that includes the former image. Typical for the following separated pairs.

Prada Marfa Book_Page_06
Page 4

Prada Marfa Book_Page_07
Page 5—There is an additional nearly subliminal enjoyment of this photograph for me. First, I owned a 1964 356C Porsche for a while, and I loved it. I was very sad to see it go. Second, as noted in the text, the film Giant, starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, was filmed in and around Marfa in 1956. James Dean later died in his own Porsche, a Spyder, the precursor to the one that I later owned. That I happened upon this Porsche parked on the main street of Marfa seemed just too serendipitous to me at the time and even now.

Prada Marfa Book_Page_08
Page 6

Prada Marfa Book_Page_09
Page 7

Prada Marfa Book_Page_10
Page 8

Prada Marfa Book_Page_11
Page 9

Prada Marfa Book_Page_12
Page 10

Prada Marfa Book_Page_13
Page 11

Prada Marfa Book_Page_14
Page 12

Prada Marfa Book_Page_15
Page 13

Prada Marfa Book_Page_16
Page 14

Prada Marfa Book_Page_17
Page 15

Prada Marfa Book_Page_18
Page 16

Prada Marfa Book_Page_19
Page 17

Prada Marfa Book_Page_20
Page 18

Prada Marfa Book_Page_21
Page 19

Prada Marfa Book_Page_22
Page 20

Prada Marfa Book_Page_24
Back Cover

all photos copyright © 2009, 2010 or 2011 by barry b. doyle · all rights reserved

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Hooking up with Tequila

Or, Tequila, Trolls and Barry-Bothering

Dear friend Deven (aka Tequila and Donuts) has just lost her mom. It’s a terrible loss—Betty was beloved by thousands through Deven’s posts at the now defunct site Open Salon with stories that left people rolling on the floor. Antics, conversations, meals out on the town, movie night at the care center all added up to an endearing love shared between the two told through the wicked wit of the scribe. I’m sorry for your loss Deven, as are the untold number who loved you both.

The following is a post on Open Salon from October of 2008 following a get together the bride and I had with Deven and her late husband Dan in Dallas.

I'm gonna poke you
“I’m gonna poke you!”

So the bride and I arranged to meet and have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Tequila and Donuts as they were in town escaping creditors and family in the PNW.

The myth exploded or what? The first of our group to meet and greet and eat with The Divine Miss D was leaving me with some trepidation. Some reputations preceded, and I just wasn’t sure what to expect. I was not disappointed, but wondered if our waiter Santiago had a hole in his shirt pocket and misplaced some blotter acid in my drinking water.

What follows is, more or less, what happened:

We get to the restaurant just about spot on time, go in and ask for a table. Chuy’s is like Chili’s used to be, but not as desperate. Clearly a funky eatery, but not without it’s manufactured charm.

Umm...E buddy...


Once we get settled, we order up some drinks and wait, Pacifico for me and just water for the bride. It had been planned that I would wear my Hockey Night in Canada jersey so that we could find each other, but we had no idea what the Divine Double D or Mr. T&D really looked like–all the stuff on the interwebs could have been an elaborate ruse.

As we waited and sipped our drinks, we anxiously watched as people came and went. We would get kind of excited when we spotted someone who looked like they knew their way around a place serving fried and greasy food, only to be disappointed again and again.

An hour passes. We look at each other and get ready to leave.

That’s when an odd looking man came in. He was wearing what must have been the typical uniform for Ralph Kramden on bowling night, but with a sombrero with little dangly things. He pushed past the hostess, saw my shirt and rushed up to me.

“You bbd?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I replied, slightly taken aback.

Pulling up a chair and sitting down, the stranger said “I’m a clever guy.”

(I probably look like a deer in the headlights, but it comes to me that I remember something T&D said about how he refers to himself.)

It’s hard to describe exactly what he looks like, or even who he may resemble. But I can say with certainty that he looks exactly like all his pictures. Except…except that he’s huge. Not just “big” or “plus sized.” He’s Sasquatch tall and proportioned with about the same amount of stubble if Sasquatch had attempted to shave with a dull axe.

He then ordered 3 beers, telling the waiter to “make it snappy, food-boy.”

“Do you like to bowl,” said Eve. She had seen the embroidered 7 and 10 pin split on the back of his shirt.

“Oh, I’m no bowler,” he said. He then throws back his head and laughs long and hard. But not a ‘ha-ha funny’ laugh. More of a ‘I’m over/under medicated’ laugh. The beers arrive and he quickly drinks two of them before saying anything else.

As he grabbed the third beer, he looks around suspiciously and says, “Sure, you can travel in Dallas, just don’t drink the water.” He laughs again and empties the bottle. “More!” he bellows to the shaken waiter, our own dear gay Santiago.

“Never drink the water here,” he began, popping a single eye nearly out of his face as he looks at the bride and her choice of beverage.

“The city has only one water-treatment facility over in South Dallas where they do experiments on the locals. They call it a treatment plant, but it’s really just a line of rope with some aquarium filter bags attached with duct tape strung across the river there, just near the main water pumps. They say it takes the crawdad and catfish piss out, but I don’t believe them.”

We spend the next 20 minutes or so like this. He’s drinking beer and telling us how every male Seattlean has to eat his own weight in salmon before he is considered a man. The bride and I sit there wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into.

That’s when an honest-to-god diva walks in with an entourage. Oddly, she carrried what appeared to be a donut-shaped pinata. After her came three bikini clad young men, each sporting a pair of Uggs proudly twirling to show off their ass-tats, pausing once in a while to wiggle said asses.

Turning toward our table, she glares for a momnent before yelling “NUMBER ONE!” Striding up, she begins planting big wet sloppy kisses everyone. “I’m Deven! And these are my concubines! I’ve decided that I firmly believe in polyandry from now on!” She glares at the first one daring him to say anything.

“Concubines?” asks Eve.

“Yeah,” she explains, “in Seattle you can wed up to 5 people so you have a full “team.” 2 forwards, a center, 2 guards and a “coach.” ”

(I’m desperately thinking “WTF?”)

More beer is ordered. Great steaming piles of enchiladas on immense platters are brought to our table as Mr. T&D, Mrs. T&D and her entourage begin feasting and singing Broadway show tunes. I must admit, she has a beautiful singing voice. Her rendition of “Voulez-Vous” from Abba/Mamma Mia left everyone in slack-jawed.

The gratuitous décolletage shot hidden from Mr. T&D’s view by the menu

Without any warning, Tequila jumps up on the table and hangs the donut pinata from a light fixture. She explains that it’s a traditional Washingtonian activity at Tex-Mex restaurants.

Mr. T&D glares at me and says “The addition of rules of engagement at restaurants in the Seattle area has ruined all spontaneity,” and then throws an an empenada from the next table at the donut hanging above our heads. Tequila and her concubines give a shout of approval and join in. The air is filled with bits of the piñata and the innards of the empenadas until finally the Donut bursts open, spilling out hundreds of stale ‘tim-bits.’ As one, our table-mates let out a yelp of “EH!” and eat the doughnut holes.

Mr. T&D then gets up and says he has to visit the “Little Cabellero Room” and dashes off towards the restrooms.

Then, again without warning, Mrs. T&D jumps up from the table and goes over to the hostess. The bride and I can’t hear what she says to her, but she suddenly takes off her clothes, revealing a diamond encrusted air pump Victoria Secrets Wonder Bra. She runs from the restaurant, followed closely by her three other spouses. She gives us a wave through the window and disappears from sight.

My bride and I just sit and stare at the table, covered in ruins. Another 30 minutes pass before I decide to get up and check the bathroom for Mr. T&D. All I find is his bowling outfit and an empty bottle of hair dye underneath a forced-open window. He, too had left.

The waiter then brings us a $500 bill for the beer, food and damages. We reluctantly pay it after the the manager threatens to call the police.

Still dazed, we head for home.

NB: the subtitle is a reference to the practice of “chicken-bothering.” T&D carries around a couple of fake chickens in her car, a hen and rooster, and on the off chance see sees some loose or feral chickens, she plants the fakes and films the ensuing mayhem:




Time—Around and Around

Greeting the sun in Santa Fe
Get up early, greet the sun and get on the road

Part I of II

I’ve often written on the nature of time and our relationship with it. While it remains true that we all are shoved along, so to speak, I’ve read that astronauts fudge the continuum by seemingly suspending the aging process when compared to those of us terrestrially bound. And as far as I know the recent Rapture failed once again to usurp our inexorable rush along that linear path our lives must follow.

The closed loop of Cartesian ontology notwithstanding—cogito ergo sum also means there is no escape velocity from time except what we construct by those very thoughts. Vonnegut did quite well with Billy Pilgrim warping and wefting his way through normal temporal limitations in his seminal Slaughterhouse 5. They gave us a wonderful journey, but constrained we remain.

Such thoughts, on the nature of time, are as close as most of us are likely to get in bending it. There are occasions when we’re confronted with the vastness of time and our own infinitesimal point in it. Such is the case in an area too-large-to-see-all-at-once in north central New Mexico. I love GoogleMaps.

NM Lost in Time Triangle. See larger version here.

There’s a triangle of sorts, one of my own making, southwest of Santa Fe. It’s not at all like the Bermuda Triangle where things disappear, though who knows what the hell is really going on in nearby Los Alamos. (You can drive through Los Alamos, but make sure you read all the warning signs first. Your loved ones won’t want you to “disappear.” It’s one of the most CCTV’d places in the US, though I’m sure Area 51 is right up there. You’re not allowed to take pictures lest you reveal the secret location of the publicly viewable Wendy’s and I’m sure there are all sorts of sensors scattered around and someone would be alerted if there was an unintentional gastro-intestinal event in your own car. Keep the windows rolled up. Carry extra rear view mirror dangly pine tree air fresheners.)

All this is a rather too-elaborate introduction to another little journey. Feel free to just look at the pictures if your mind’s eye is already glazed over.

My triangle journey is separated into two days. There are no direct connecting roads, so it would be difficult to fit it all in if you only have one day to spare. The first part—to Tent Rocks National Monument—is an easy half day excursion. The second part—hitting the two other points on the triangle—Jemez Springs and Valles Caldera will take most of another day and requires an early start from your home base in Santa Fe.

This is the first of a two-part blog. Part II will take us to the other two points in the time triangle. I felt I had to serialize it since there were too many images I wanted to share for a single post.




Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
Our first stop is a leisurely 45 minute jaunt southwest of Santa Fe. Take Interstate 25 that continues down to Albuquerque and take the Highway 16 exit directing you to the Pueblo de Cochiti. Follow the signs to Tent Rocks on Highway 22. Note that there are signs that let you know if the Monument is open. Since the roads go through Pueblo land, they have the right to close access to the site, though the monument itself is on Federal BLM land.

Tent Rocks National Monument

The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions estimated to have occurred some 1.5 million years ago. The eruptions spewed ash, pumice and tuff over a wide area and left deposits of 1,000 ft or more in places. There were simultaneous eruptions that resulted in pyroclastic flows. Embedded in the tent rock formations, comprised of that ancient tuff, are little pyroclastic obsidian pieces which formed from rapid cooling.

Tent Rocks National MonumentAn mimetolith, or in a more modern neologism, an emoticonolith.

The tops of the tent rocks have a harder matrix of materials and wind and rain erosion through the vast reaches of time have resulted in the current unusual formations. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Keresan language of the nearby Cochiti pueblo people, descendants of 14th century settlers.

There are two trails at the monument. The first is a one-mile loop that takes you past some tent rock formations where you can get a close up look. The rules are that you may not climb on them nor take any of the embedded glass or obsidian or “Apache Tears” rocks. Everything must remain intact.

Near the apex of the loop, there is a shallow cave carved out of the softer strata that reveals the construction of an early shelter for the first human inhabitants. Inside the cave, which you’re not allowed to enter, or even scale the small distance to peer into it, is a bench carved into one side. Carbon soot stains the ceiling.

Tent Rocks

But by far the more interesting trail is an up-and-back that will total about 3 miles when you finally return to the parking area. It will seem longer, but you’ll feel invigorated by the experience. It’s the Slot Canyon trail that will eventually take you to the top of the mesa that overlooks the loop trail with views to mountains behind Santa Fe to the northeast. The last half of the trail up to the mesa top is very steep, and parts of the trail require you to walk sideways through some very narrow slots.

Just before you get to the trailhead for the Slot Canyon trail, you need to look up. You’ll see some amazing formations.

Tent Rocks National Monument

Tent Rocks

The trail starts out benign enough, but there is the name of it that brings an expectation of a small adventure.

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Things close in soon enough.

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Looking up relieves the feeling of claustrophobia a bit.

looking up

Eventually you get through the slot, and on a hot day it’s refreshingly cool while cloistered in the narrow confines. The steep part of the trail up to the mesa top then begins, and on warm days your pace will slow dramatically.

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks

Tent Rocks
Beetle tracks

Tent Rocks

Little window

A cautionary note: take plenty of water with you as there are no vending facilities nearby. Although water is heavy to tote when hiking, make sure you take at least a liter, preferably two, if you venture up the longer Slot Canyon trail. There are nice restroom facilities at the trailhead, and some picnic benches nearby, but no other creature comforts are available.


And, as always, life will find a way.

Tent Rocks

If you’re in Santa Fe or Albuquerque and are wondering what to do with an extra day, the Tent Rocks National Monument is a perfect day trip.




This ends the first part of our journey in north central New Mexico. Part II will take us to some time traveling in Jemez and the Valles Caldera and is posted below this.




A favorite artist of mine, Mark Kozelek, singing a time song written by John Denver and sung with Rachel Goswell.

Water Jar Girl Running

Self portraitSelf portrait, of sorts. Larger view here.

Part II of Time—Around and Around
This conclusion of a two-part post on some considerations about the nature of time has evolved into some tangential thoughts.

Like Water for Time
I sat on the banks of the Chama River in north central New Mexico for quite some time lost in thought. I had driven up from Santa Fe through Abiquiu, compelled once again to view the scenes that were dear to Georgia O’Keeffe. It was a planned day trip without a firm destination, but with a vague idea of a large loop that would bring me back to Santa Fe.

The image above is indeed a self-portrait. With a careful viewing, which isn’t really warranted, you might see in the mirror the barest glimmer of light reflected off the lens used in the shot. I’m further beyond that in a darker recess. It may seem odd, but when I think of a self-portrait, I don’t always see myself in it. What I see is the encompassing view of what my eyes behold—a vision from behind my head and through it. So this is a self portrait that matches my definition and experience—and I like the softness combined with the vibrancy of the shot which enhances the metaphor.

I sat. I often get a sense there are times for waiting, and not knowing what the waiting will bring. Perhaps there will come something new to see or an illumination of thoughts that wander in and out of my brain—much like the barest whisper of a breeze and noting its presence before it’s gone forever. I got up and wandered.

It’s a beautiful little river—and around a bend in the distance I found fly fishermen, slowing, if not suspending, time for themselves. The river was not very deep or quick and it started some thoughts on the nature of time. The Chama flows in a linear way, of course, much like our understanding of how time works. It’s the nature of linear movement that we might wade out into a shallow part, but would never really step in the same river twice. Time’s march is inexorable and we often seem to float and bob along, unable to do anything else but bob up and down along the way. We’re lucky when we seem to find a little eddy caused by a fortunate obstruction, moving around and around a point where it seems we have more than enough time to enjoy the moment—time suspended for a little while.

We’re like those molecules of water, jostling to find our way without really knowing what the path will bring. The river may end as we know it or name it, but we continue on—though perhaps in a different form. It might be eons before our little aqua molecular self finds a way to the surface of a vast sea, only to be drawn up as vapor into the atmosphere to become a part of something else—a microscopic part of a cloud that will travel with the wind. We morph into a falling drop and find the headwaters of some other river with an untold number of partners. And it cycles again and again so the very nature of the reincarnation approaches timelessness.



Valles CalderaThe Valles Caldera. You can see a larger image here. It’s a composite stitch of three photos. The little mound you see in the middle distance is the rhyolite lava dome Cerro la Jara. It is about three kilometers away and 75 meters high. The uplift in the distance is 10 kilometers from where I took the shot. The high point on the horizon at left center is Redondo Peak at 3400 meters and about 800 meters higher than where I was standing.

The image above has us standing at the edge of a super volcano. A smaller cousin to the super volcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park, Valles Caldera in northern New Mexico is still a vast structure stretching about 22 kilometers in diameter.

We often don’t have the imagination to understand the largeness of a thing.  And in the case of large geology, we have no good sense of the time involved. Even with the Sesame Street-ish object lessons—this and this and this equal that, our minds can’t always bend to take it in. You need to get high above Valles Caldera to see it from one end to the other. Your vision at ground level is too limited to encompass the size and time of it.

VallesCalderaAn image of the Valles Caldera captured from the Landsat 7 satellite. There is an added red arrow that shows my location for the panorama image I took. You can see a larger view here. The Earth Observatory page with some additional information is here. The city of Los Alamos is at the center right of the EO shot. Image is in the public domain.

I think the view from outer space makes it seem as if the caldera is an enormous paw print left by some being beyond our ken and out of our time. The Valles in the name of the place means “grass valley” not simply a generic valley. The grass is never much overgrown because of the wildlife. The largest herd of elk in the southwest finds it’s home there along with countless deer and wild sheep. It has been a feeding ground for millennia and the first human nomads knew of it and exploited it for the hunting and other resources. Spear points dated to 11,000 years ago have been identified. Nomadic family groups evolved into disparate tribes and settled into different neighboring areas. They all came to hunt in the valles, but they also found obsidian to use for spear and arrow points.

In the first installment of this time diptych about the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument we saw some unusual geologic formations, cones that seemed to defy the normal slow progress of wind and water erosion. The cones of soft pumice and tuff that spread out beneath harder caprocks were initially deep flat deposits of volcanic rock and ash. Within the strata are bits of obsidian that are rounded and shaped a bit like raindrops as they were flung from the super volcano that spewed the ash and pumice. They are called “Apache tears.” It’s against the law to excavate or collect them now, but it was the source of a burgeoning trade economy for the first peoples.

In more modern times the Spanish invaders, Mexican settlers as well as the Navajos, used the valles for seasonal grazing. From the time of the first visitors there have always been clashes and raids, it was too rich for just one group.


Now here’s the thing. Long before there were any peoples in what is now northern New Mexico there were massive eruptions from the Valles Caldera super volcano. The largest was about 1.5 million years ago in the Pleistocene epoch. What’s surprising about the Pleistocene is that in doing some research to place it in context, 1.5 million years ago is a blink of the eye in terms of geologic and megafauna history. The last of the dinosaurs that roamed this same area died off about 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Many scientists believe that New Mexico saw the first human inhabitants about 13,000 years ago. Interestingly, some of the megafauna (large animals) that survived to the end of the Pleistocene became extinct with the arrival of those nomadic hunters. The last American mastodon, Mammut americanum, left our world about 10,000 years ago, having survived super volcanoes and incursions of vast inland seas and multiple ice ages in its 3.7 million year residency in North America.

So I’m at 8,000 feet above sea level in the middle of April. It’s still cold enough to need a light jacket as I stand contemplating the nature of time and place and who was in it and when.

Who does it belong to? The first peoples? They often didn’t have the same notion of land ownership that later European settlers imposed, though the Black Legend of colonization in the New World had, in hindsight, a predictable result. One might make a case that the Roman Empire brought many benefits to the conquered peoples, but there are many historians who calculate the cost to the various indigenous peoples subsumed or who disappeared. Has there ever been a colonization that honored and protected a native people? Manifest Destiny taken to the logical absurdity says that if I paved your gravel driveway then I get to own your house. The codices of the Mayans were collected and burned en masse because they were written by the Devil. Smallpox and other communicable diseases eradicated native populations, at first passively and then later as genocidal weapons. Why is the history written by winners taken at face value?




The People
The archaeologists and social anthropologists who in later years placed the Hemish people in what was to become northern New Mexico probably also believe in the Land Bridge theory of immigration. During the last great ice age, the Wisconsin Glaciation, ocean levels were down about 200 feet from present levels beginning about 50,000 years ago and lasting until about 10,000 years ago. Much of the continental shelf was exposed due to sea waters being sequestered in ice. The estimated continental ice and glaciers in the northern hemisphere meant that the land bridge between Siberia and the western coast of Alaska was about 1,000 miles wide—more than wide enough for migrating game herds which were followed by those hunting them.

The hunters, who gradually made their way south—first along the coast and then inland—were the ancestors of the American Indians. That’s the theory, and recent discoveries have found some chinks in the archeological armor of evidence supporting it. It was long held that the first non-nomadic settlement in the New World was a site near Clovis, New Mexico at 11,500 years ago. But in 1997, artifacts from Monte Verde, in Southern Chile, were found to be at least a 1,000 years older. And new evidence from the Clovis site by carbon dating some artifacts place the time frame at nearly 14,000 years ago.

Whatever the science involved, many Native Americans have never accepted the theories. In various but similar genesis stories, many of the first nations cultures believe that the Creator who formed the land also caused the people to rise up from it. Those beliefs don’t actually counter the science of the Land Bridge theory, the Asian nomadic hunters could very well have crossed that ice free connection, but they encountered a land that had a host of peoples already in the new world. Charcoal found in what is now South Carolina had a radiocarbon date of at least 50,000 years, before the Wisconsin Glaciation ice age.

Whether populated by Proto-Amerinds, or raised up from mud, clay, fire or water, the inhabitants of the New World followed the land and what it had to offer and were often driven by ecological cycles that spanned generations.


Water Jar GirlJemezGirl


The river trees have not yet lost their yellow leaves, but they will soon. Mountainside colors have changed to acorn orange and dull green. The nights are now cold, but the days are still warm enough for those outside to seek shelter from the sun. It is a favorite and welcomed time of the year. The maize is in and stored, the summer hunt meat is smoked and put away as well. This is the time between the hot hard work and the more meager winter hunting. It is a time when the people enjoy each other and their place in this world—the narrow canyon world. It is a time for coming together.


It has been a long time since the Diné from the northwest or the Tewas from the northeast had come to make trouble for the Hemish. Most of the peoples in the scattered pueblos knew it was for the best. Didn’t they all come from the earth? And whether you were Apache or Zuni or Tewa or Diné or Hemish—the very thing you called yourself confirmed those origins because they all meant the same thing: the people.

It was a comfortable time of peace, the leaders of most of the nearby clans and pueblos had long since resolved most issues of sacred places and hunting areas. The people were left to grow their corn and beans and to hunt—and to run. They loved to run, for running brought breath and life. To run was to be one with the deer, and the closest you could come to flying.

Water Jar Girl was born into this peace. She was of an age now where her questions were more than about the asking. She wanted to understand the answers.

“When you learned to walk, you began to run. You haven’t stopped running granddaughter Water Jar Girl, I think you will always do so.”

“I don’t want to see the visions in the water, grandmother. I just want to run.”

“We are many things Water Jar, some we choose, some we cannot. You can run for the joy it brings, but you cannot run to break your shadow. You will see the future in the water. You must choose if the gift the First Ones gave you will help our people. It does not matter that there is no sense in it for you, perhaps that will come. It is the Elders who will see the meaning through your eyes. It is theirs to bear what our people will do with what you see.”

“I just want to run.”

Fall in Indian Country

It was a short walk to the stream that ran next to the village. She took a worn path upstream to a favorite spot and settled next to where the stream cut a smaller channel. She knelt on her flat rock next to a still pool and peered into the water. 

Water Jar saw herself running and smiled at the reflection. The gentle ripples made it seem as if she was running faster than she could and as if she barely touched the ground. She stared and realized she should not be smiling…there was no joy in this running. Her image slowly vanished, but there was still a runner there. A young man had taken her place and she could tell that he had been running for a long time. He bore the terrible news that she had given him. 

She saw the people in the windows and doorways of a place she didn’t know…walls built below an overhang of a sheer cliff. It was an ancient place abandoned ages ago and now ruined. She didn’t recognize anyone, but knew they were her people. They were worn and scared.

Cliff Palace

They were hiding from strangers, people that must have been called up by the gods for punishment. People they didn’t know how to fight. People who were bringing the end of the world.




Part of my journey that brought this story and all these thoughts and daydreams had me traveling up the Jemez Valley, what is known as the San Diego Canyon. As hinted above, the name Jemez was a Hispanicization of what the pueblo people in the area called themselves—”the people” in the Tewa language still spoken in the Jemez Pueblo today. When they said “Hemish” to describe themselves, the early Spanish explorers heard “Jemez.”

Here I found the ancient Hemish village of Giusewa (pronounced Gee-eh-seh-wuh). The people came late to the valley, probably migrating away from drought stricken areas to the northwest in the Four Corners area. Giusewa was settled around A.D. 1500.

In the winter of 1540-41 it was as if an asteroid stuck the pueblo. Millennia-old patterns of puebloan living was forever altered. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his entourage of soldiers, Franciscan priests and Mexican-Indian auxiliaries set up camp near the present town of Bernalillo and sent exploratory parties throughout the region.

By the early 1600s life and culture had changed. The people were conscripted to build the Franciscan mission. In 1620 the Mission San José de los Jémez church was built with indigenous labor. The ruins of the church is still visible. The ruins of the lives irrevocably changed are harder to see—it takes a knowledge of the pre-invasion history and culture to compare that with those who remain—and then a subjective analysis.

I know what has gone before in this post is a long and rambling introduction to the following images. Thanks to those of you that took the time to scan though those thoughts. It’s not really necessary to understand how I think in order for you to get whatever enjoyment you can out of a few travelogue style photographs, but it does provide a bit of context. That we fell into some unfamiliar territory with the insertion of some historical fiction is just some added fun for me. I hope you enjoy the before and the after. Now for the after: What follows are images of the Jémez State Monument. It’s a place where you can wander on smooth concrete paths and think about all the time it took for you to get there. The immediate impression of the monument is that it’s all about the ruins of an early 17th century mission church. What strikes you more forcefully is that the church and its compound buildings overlay a much older indigenous way of life, still visible and still able to conjure what was and what might have been but for the accident of the wrong “India” getting in the way of the first Iberian explorers.

One more note before the photos: As I was leaving the site and exiting through the visitor center I overheard another guest, perhaps a retired midwestern vacationer, mention to the attendant that she had no idea that there was something so old as the remains of the church still there. The State Park ranger, in uniform and obviously a native, just looked at her. I could tell from his expression that he seemed to be biting his tongue. It didn’t take me long to figure out what he was thinking. He never answered her rhetorical thoughts, but what surely must have been churning in his brain was the history of his own people, and all the related tribes and families who occupied the broader region for more than 10,000 years.


A Mission Church
Cottonwoods coming to life
Except for a few stones and boulders displaced by erosion, weather and gravity, there is probably little change in the view of the canyon wall in all the time that there have been people in the canyon. Larger view is here.

oven at the Jemez Monument
A puebloan oven

Jémez State Monument
The entrance to a reconstructed kiva. You are welcome to enter it, but out of respect they ask you not to take any photos inside. You can see the bell tower to the mission church in the background.

Jémez State Monument
Kivas in the foreground

Jémez State Monument

Jémez State Monument
The entrance to the mission church showing the nave beyond.

Jémez State Monument
Standing in the nave. I think with a celestial ceiling such as this, it might inspire some

Jémez State Monument
The chancel, worn with time

Jémez State MonumentEmbedded timbers that supported a second floor

Jémez State MonumentA room with a view

Jémez State MonumentA view outside the room

Jémez State MonumentThe site is all about respecting the indigenous.

San Diego Canyon in Jemez Valley
Place yourself in time, back before the Spanish version of Manifest Destiny





As you might imagine, this particular post took some time to put together. It was a long time being thought about befoe it began to take shape. Choosing and preparing the photographs also takes a good deal of time. Many of you know that I endure some trouble with my eyes which has its own weird irony given the profession. It’s not until I get home from a journey or a photo shoot  that I can evaluate if a something I took in the field is any good. A lot of what I do means taking my time. I think about what I want to do, then approach the composition with some deliberation. Some of what happens is a distillation of experience of more than 40 years of f/stops, aperture settings, lens choices, intuition and quite often, pure luck. So it’s a natural thing to think about tangential things in the slow process. Or maybe its just OCD behavior.

The original image of the Indian girl was a photo taken in 1905 by Edward Sheriff Curtis, 1868-1952, an intrepid photographer of the American West and of Native Americans. The girl’s name was Ah Chee Lo. You can see the original photo here. The photo resides in the Library of Congress and was copyrighted between 1905 and 1929 and the copyright was not renewed. Works copyrighted before 1923 are now in the public domain, thus it’s permissible to use the images without consideration of the constraints of Fair Use. It is also permissible to make derivative works of images that are in the public domain—which is what I’ve done with the lovely photograph. I took the outline of the image into Photoshop and painted it there with a broad watercolor brush, then toned it toward sepia. I hope you see it as it was intended, a respectful rendition of a master’s work to fit within the fictional narrative.

Running has a long history in the native cultures. It is part of the spirit of Native Americans that they embrace running for the sheer joy it brings for runners and spectators alike. You can read a short narrative of how the runners played a part in the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, when many puebloan communities rebelled against the harsh Spanish colonial rule in northern New Mexico. That story is here.



all photos copyright © 2011 by barry b. doyle unless noted otherwise

all rights reserved

#  #  #

Dear [Name Removed]

Hi [Name Removed]

(copying [Name Removed] in case I don’t have your correct email address)

Attached is a PDF showing my costs for one Bluebird birdhouse.

I think it doesn’t make sense to have me make the cedar bluebird birdhouses for you, at least economically, unless you want something that’s handcrafted or artisanal in nature. It would sound weird in telling neighbors and friends, “Look at my artisanal birdhouses” when in fact you can get a cedar bb house for less than $20 each on Amazon.

Amazon link to one of many

However, it’s difficult to find on Amazon a bb house that has the precise diameter opening at 1-9/16” specifically intended for Mountain Bluebirds that is required to reduce predation and invasions from other birds. The Eastern Bluebird has a slightly larger opening. I don’t really know the efficacy or accuracy of these claims though. And the ones on Amazon are not made by me. And you never know if the ones on Amazon are made by 10-year-old Chinese girl orphans in prison dormitories using toxic liquid poisonous cedar preservative that will kill your birds anyway. And the Chinese girls too.

But mine are nice…it’s the only way I really know how to do things. “Quality to Suit Myself” sounds like a good logo/motto thing, don’t you think?



IMG_0228 IMG_0212

Cedar Bluebird Birdhouse Bid

Sweet Potato, Chipotle and Apple Soup


I saw this recipe in the paper and thought the combinations a bit odd, but maybe they might just work.

They do—this is a winner. (I changed some amounts to suit my taste, added the shallot and changed the apples to Honeycrisp or Pink Lady from the ones suggested in the paper—I’m sure mine’s a bit better.)

We were invited to our friends’ home to say goodbye to another couple who are part time residents up here on the mesa. It was time for them to return to their other lives in the big city. So we did a pot-luck. My contribution was the soup.

The soup is easy—easier still if you have one of those hand held blending stick things to get it all done in one pot.

The recipe 
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and cut
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated
2 Pink Lady or Honeycrisp apples, peeled cored and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 qt low sodium chicken stock
3 cups water
1-2 chipotle in adobo sauce (from a small can), seeded and minced (depends on your heat tolerance)
¼ cup cream
Salt and white pepper
3 corn tortillas, cut in half and then thinly sliced
oil for frying tortilla strips
cinnamon sugar

Note: To honor our departing friends, I added an adjustment to the ingredients. Since he’s Persian, I added a slight sprinkling of ground sumac. It has a tart, lemony taste. He loved it. You can see in the image above I didn’t need to add much. Another nice addition, which we used last night is diced avocado which tempers the heat a bit from the chipotle. Depending on the guests’ heat tolerance, I’ll normally add just one chipotle pepper, cut in half with seeds and ribs removed before adding to the soup prior to blending.

In a medium or large soup pot heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and minced shallot and saute over medium heat until edges are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for 2 minutes more.

Add the apples and celery, stir to combine. Cook, reducing the apples in volume a bit—about 5 minutes.

Add the sweet potato slices and cook, stirring occasionally, for another five minutes.

Add the chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the chipotle.

Using a blender or a blender stick, purée the soup to creamy smoothness. Add cream and stir to blend. Add salt and white pepper to taste

Fry the cut tortilla strips for a few minutes until almost golden. Do this in batches. Transfer cooked strips to a couple of layers of paper towels to drain, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Toss, sprinkle again.

Serve in shallow bowls with tortilla strips on top. Will make about six hearty servings.

This is great for a chilly winter day.

Contrabando on the Rio Grand

Contrabando on the Rio Grande from bbd on Vimeo.

The Contrabando site takes its name from a nearby canyon. It’s an easy crossing from Mexico and doesn’t require a swim, simply a wade. You can guess why the canyon has that name.

What makes the site interesting is that it’s now the location of an abandoned movie set. Nine different movies were made here including the justly forgotten comedy-western Up Hill All The Way starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives. A bit better film was Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo.

The set is decaying, its demise forestalled somewhat by the arid climate, but returning to dust and plastered over particle board debris is inevitable. For all that, it was quiet, I was alone and I felt transported to a time that could have been real. A time really not that long ago, and a time now when a real rancheria like this still dots the Mexican landscape.

This is the story that inspired the amateurish video:


decaying set

This is the second in a series taking you along on one of my solo photo road trips. It’s a continuation of the previous post from the now dead Open Salon site “Dawn at Prada Marfa,” a photo shoot of an art installation in a remote part of the high desert in West Texas. And it’s part of my journey toward my OS friends, a meet-up in Scottsdale at Rancho Laurena and eventually being introduced there to that most subtle of mistresses, Kilt Lifter Scottish ale on draft. She’s a sneaky powerful dominatrix. Some tales will remain untold I’ve been told I promised.

I was dimly aware of the Contrabando site, but was brought up short when I stumbled upon it on US Highway 170. The highway, also called Ranch Road 170 is a sinuous asphalt snake, curving and undulating for some 60 miles along the Rio Grande. I had no trouble throwing a rock over to Mexico, the river is quite placid and narrow near the highway.

You know when you see a highway warning yellow sign advising of a 6% grade and trucks must use lower gears? There was a small and nearly missed sign at the beginning of the road near Lajitas, just west of Terlingua, that mentioned grades up and down at 15%. That may not sound significant, but I can tell you that I felt like I was on an extreme rollercoaster at Six Flags. Coupled with the fact that often at the apex of a steep ascent, that innocuous sign with a little curved arrow you just passed did not in any way prepare you for an off-camber two wheel skidding turn just out of view on the other side of the top of the hill leading you straight to the depths of Sheol. My incontinent screaming once again drowning out the 300 db output from my iPod wailing Sun Kil Moon’s Si Paloma.

Still, it has to be one of the prettiest roads in the country, certainly in the state. But it is a severe beauty. And I traversed it in March, not in the searing moisture sucking parched summertime. There were green things to see—a rarity for much of the year when most things take on the camouflage of dust and a dry hope for survival to a relatively cooler time.

The Contrabando site takes its name from a nearby canyon. It’s an easy crossing from Mexico and doesn’t require a swim, simply a wade. You can guess why the canyon has that name. Various sites on the Internet spell it Contrabano, but that’s a mistake.

What makes the site interesting is that it’s now the location of an abandoned movie set. Nine different movies were made here including the justly forgotten comedy-western Up Hill All The Way starring Roy Clark, Mel Tillis and Burl Ives. A bit better film was Larry McMurtry’s Streets Of Laredo, though it starred that turgid curmudgeon James Garner—my dislike for the improbable Rockford will keep me from adding it to Netflix.

The set is decaying, its demise forestalled somewhat by the arid climate, but returning to dust and plastered over particle board debris is inevitable. For all that, it was quiet, I was alone and I felt transported to a time that could have been real. A time really not that long ago, and a time now when a real rancheria like this still dots the Mexican landscape.

I enjoyed taking these shots and I hope you enjoy viewing them with me. Thanks for stopping by.

Addendum: If you want to point your GoogleEarth app or Googlemaps webpage to this location, you can find it here: 29°16’46″N, 103°50’29″W or 29.2794, -103.8414. There are some Panoramio photos on GoogleEarth that show it in less decay than my shots.


The sky seemed too immense, much more so than what I could capture here.  You can see a larger version of this shot here.

west of Lajitas

Contrabano church

Inside the church, a bell façade in reserve

Inside the saloon things are decomposing as well

That’s an Ocotillo plant on the left, with a mockingbird taking wing above. You can see this shot in a larger size here.

Again, that big, big sky. Larger version of this shot here.

Randy Newman comes to mind for some reason.

A home overlooking the river with a covered patio for sitting and sipping.

I don’t think the sawhorse would actually hold a real horse for long. These two shots above are not of the same structure, the bottom one shows the outside of the saloon…inside view of the saloon a few above.

The view to the river

See? An easy walk to Mexico without having to bother with all those pesky trigger happy border guards. (Yeah, probably some Predator drones overhead and out of sight)

Ocotillo bike rack—FAIL! Actually, the ocotillo stems make good fencing if you can keep yourself from being impaled by the thorns whilst building it.

Another view to the now invisible river. Look closely at this original sized image in the middle right hand side of the shot and you’ll see a wild burro.

Nearly between two worlds—that’s Mexico on the left looking west and the curvature of the earth beyond.

You can see a fairly benign portion of the Ranch Road 170 to the right in the shot above.

A lovely thing I encountered all along my journeys were these little cairns left by those who’d gone before.

It seems I used this particular lens in this shot on this trip more than any other lens I have, and it’s a beauty. It’s the Nikkor 14-24mm 2.8.  It’s a wonderful performer. The only downside is that the front element is so large, and constructed in such a way that there can’t be any protective filter. It does have an extra hard nanocoat on the outside element, but still, you have to be very careful with this lens to keep it from getting bumped. The lens cover is as big as a dessert plate. You can see a picture of the lens here.

And finally…

I hop back into my trusty little Honda and continue my journey westward to lovely friends and the amazing Kilt Lifter.

all images copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved

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