Sunday, November 29, 2015

Las Cruces, New Mexico Trip, Thanksgiving 2015

Las Cruces Morning

My senses start,

Fresh from the grasp of sleep.

 I wake upon  a frayed mattress

Cupped in the bowl of

Sagging box springs

That was last night's bed.

My alarm clock is  clink of spoon

On edge of China cup

And soft easy laughter

Of my love at morning tea

With her grandmother

In  the dining room beyond.

Two happy spirits

Joined by other joyful spirits

That live in the softly spoken stories

They exchange with

Cream and sugar.

 The eight hundred miles I drove in last night's darkness

Mean nothing now.

The ensemble of rain

Pouring  it's soft percussion

Upon the roof


New Mexico skies

Washes yesterday's travels

Down smooth arroyos of my heart. 

(Here is music to read this post by with if you would like, just click play and scroll down...)

It's been a busy couple of months and I've only just gotten to writing the first post for this new blog, which will be somewhat eclectic but low key. Click an image and it will open a gallery if you don't feel like reading.

Although there were some somber necessities that called us upon the road to New Mexico  this year, we had a really nice trip. We were tired and harried but found time to enjoy some sights and enjoy fellowship with family.

We spent the first night in Las Cruces in her Grandma's home. The desert is beautiful here; the unusual rains gave the sands a beach like texture and I love the low lying salt cedar trees with their awesome, fern like leaves of light green and yellow. Grandma's property had once been full of them but a 500 year drought has required most of them to be removed as debris. That's too bad, because they way the branches ramble about the trees they lend themselves well to the construction of extensive childhood fortresses, and when my wife and her siblings spent childhood days here they had a veritable labyrinth hidden behind those branches.  In later years her daughters built their own.  The forts are gone now, but she described them for me, and it reminded me of the year I spent at my own Grandma and Grandpa's rural property in the Klammath Falls area of Oregon back in '84; the terrain could not be more different but it made me remember being thirteen and building lean-to shelters in the forest there where my imagination made me a scout of the Old West. Her Grandma was just as sweet and kind as I remember both of my own.

Las Cruces is a desert jewel. Miles of pecan trees and sprawling adobe homesteads that tell you instantly that neighbours don't worry much at all about any uniform code as to appearance. New Mexico people lead a very individualistic existence from what I saw...the modern adobe neighbourhoods  are so much more appealing than the  "shell 'em and sell 'em" tract housing to which I've been accustomed.

These palms were everywhere in Las Cruces and probably were once a favourite dinosaur food.

The city sits directly under the striated spars of the Organ Mountains, a majestic chain of peaks which evoked for me old memories of the Danskin Mountains in South Western Idaho. Uncommon rains smoked on the peaks the whole time we were there, giving it a glowering effect. After living in the middle of Oklahoma for so many years, I can tell you I miss walking down city street with mountains looming over head.

A typical neighbourhood street in Las Cruces.

This is a shot of the courtyard of the hotel my wife's Grandmother put us up in--well tended palms and a great vantage of the city but it was raining with thunder and lightening and we forgot swim clothes, so no swimming.

It was a nice hotel. I do not name it because our experience here was less than satisfactory in some respects. You know, icy weather would later strand us in Amarillo upon our departure from New Mexico where we would stay at an 80 dollar a nite hotel with better amenities and sleeping conditions than we found here at this ritzy place. We could hear every neighbour-- from what sounded like drug dealers doing business over the phone to combative couples, frisky lovers, and drunken fools hollering down the hall at night. When we left the place my wife stopped me from having her park the car running so I could sneak back upstairs and scream down the hall at 6:30 am--"WAKE UP YOU DRUNK--******". I was truly willing to do it but she thought better. I'm glad I have a sensible wife.

A corner in Mesila, New Mexico.

While we there, my wife made sure we got to visit Mesilla. This place is truly awesome--very old adobe buildings that have been refurbished but still retain many original features. Yes, it serves as a tourist district in our era, but Mesila  does so without losing the Native American, Cowboy and and Mexican magic that pervades it's cobbled streets. Mesilla was a major hub in the Old West and even with the upgrades, you can still feel the spirits of that era.

Brick sidewalks run up and down the length of stores that contain locally grown produce, flavoured pecan confections and Native American art, including hand made blankets and pottery. Sally will not like this pic...:)

Adobe buildings last forever--it was awesome to know we were traversing streets that were little changed since gunfighters, coach passengers, and train riders had walked them nearly a hundred years before.

The Basilica of San Albinus, adjacent to the central park square in Mesilla. Established in 1852 by a Hispanic priest and dedicated to the French Saint Albino of Angers, France, the church was given a Romanesque reconstruction in 1906 and granted minor basilica status by a Roman Bishop. Daily mass is till held here in Spanish and English services and there are bronze plaques at the base of the statue of Mary which appear to be dedicated to New Mexico war veterans. I find it strange that there is a church in the middle of the desert dedicated to a saint who is the patron defender of the faithful against pirate attacks, but given New Mexico's outlaw heritage, perhaps it was aptly named.

Skeletons and skulls abound in the gift shops of Mesilla, crafted by natives who enjoy the Latin Day of the Dead holiday as much as their Western European counterparts enjoy Christmas. The skeletons are usually whimsical or comic as opposed to spooky or dark, made from everything to paper mache to clay to tin.

Pretty autumn leaf changes at the park across the street from St. Albinus.

If you go to Mesilla, you want to eat at La Posta Mexican restaurant. This sprawling tile floored maze began in the 1800's as a cluster of adobe buildings centered around a hotel and then later connected to form a vast single building. There are still original beams and adobe work throughout. The high roof, sky lit foyer has huge iron cages contain very old and very smart parrots of various colors who greet you as you pass them. Nearby a fountain pours into a beautiful mosaic reservoir that fills the foyer with pleasant water sounds as you examine the aquarium tanks holding great colourful fish and threatening looking piranhas.

 La Posta has a wonderful atmosphere filled with art and light. Ulysses S. Grant and other American presidents stayed at La Posta when it was a hotel, and it's just across the street from the courthouse where Billy The Kid was sentenced to hang by a judge in Mesilla. The really great thing about the place, though, is the food. I had good chiles rellanos for the first time since leaving Idaho. This whole region is famed for it's green chiles--you can get them on McDonald's hamburgers here and find ice cream places that serve green chile shakes and cones. In fact, the people of this region are sort of green chile snobs, and having had a plate of the best chile rellanos I can remember, I concur with that sentiment. My babe and I had a great lunch with good food and powerful magaritas.

Built in Adobe benches in La Posta

The art district here is very alive with sculpture, native weaving, painting, photography, music and dance. We stopped at a fine art gallery that had this lovely fountain in it's old courtyard.

Plainly adorned, this unassuming building was once the courthouse of Mesilla and the place where, as we mentioned, Billy the Kid was handed down a death sentence by the rope. Billy was transferred to another county to be held until his appointment with the noose but killed his two jailers and escaped, later to be gunned down, infamously, by Pat Garret, as sung about by Marty Robbins. I wonder what William would think if his ghost came around and saw that that the courthouse was now a gift shop bearing his moniker, complete with a talking Billy the Kid mannequin in a  glass booth that urges passersby to drop in a quarter so they can hear a snippet of the Kid's history? I don't think he'd like it.

The Road Home

Our stay had to come to an end but it was, despite all the hard reasons we had to go, still a nice journey with my babe. Her family has so much history there and it was fun to drive down boulevards where her mom and dad cruised in cars during their teenage years and where my wife's story began; the family still has such a strong connection there.

 There are lots of spirits in Las Cruces, old and new--some are familial and will always be a part of that landscape and that city. I am looking forward to a road trip there again soon.

Thanks for reading.