Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Questions Asked and Answered

By way of stretching and working the metaphorical speed bag before going into the day’s writing, I’m going to work some TMI Tuesday into one of these Answer These Random Questions and Talk Your Friends into Doing the Same copy-pastas you find on Facebook. Also, yes, it’s been too long since posts, so here:

How old are you: Dirt. Okay, 57. Over a month since my birthday and I still laugh to think of it. I honestly can’t get over having lived this long.

Surgeries: For 18 years I had all the scars of Christ, with a carpal tunnel release scar on either hand from 1999 and 2000 and one on my right side for the appendectomy in 1984. Then the robot carved up my lower abdomen digging out my cancerous prostate this summer and wrecked the effect. I’m still a little put out by this.

Tattoos: Absolutely not. I didn’t understand people who drew on themselves in elementary school, either, so maybe it’s just me.

Shot a gun: Yes. I regret not getting more into it, but my observation is that, done right, it is an expensive and time-consuming hobby, and I prefer to allocate my resources elsewhere.

Quit a job: Who hasn’t?

Ever been on TV: Yes. Mainly guy-on-the-street stuff, which is funny, because I couldn’t do normal if I tried. I know, because I have tried. Leopards, spots, and so on.

What do you drive: A “solar yellow” 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sport, the last of the Jeeps that look like real Jeeps, not the ugly bastard spawn of a miscegenation between a Hummer and a Jeep. We’ve been together 17 years as of September. It’s a love affair. Like most of my life, it’s difficult to explain to normies.

Hit a deer? Regrettably, yes.

Fell in love: See above. But, sometimes, as with my wife and Jeep, it’s worked out.

Rode in an ambulance: No occasion to, thank God.

Sang karaoke: To the dismay of everyone in earshot, I did. They were at least as drunk as I was and probably deserved it, though.

Ice skated: A couple of times, actually. It was okay, but not something I would go out of my way to do.

Rode a motorcycle: Never drove one, but rode on the back with my hands gripping the seat bar behind me like a proper heterosexual male.

Stayed in hospital: “Surgeries” covered this.

Favorite fruit: Never considered this. They’re all good to me.

Favorite smell: A mix of fresh brewed coffee and bacon over fresh-polished hardwood floors as a fire snaps away at some well-seasoned logs in the fireplace. Or the sandalwood incense old head shops smelled of in the 1970s (there’s some Old Spice body wash my son got a hold of, the scent of which bears an uncannily precise resemblance to this). Or blooming wisteria, or tea roses. So many to choose from. So I won’t.

The view through my bathroom window just before sunrise. At first I was irritated because I had to get up, but then....

Morning or night: There’s a song by The Who — really, just Pete Townshend on a ukulele with a beautifully understated horn line by John Entwistle in the background — called “Blue, Red, and Grey” which speaks for my attitude towards this question. That is to say, “I love every minute of the day.” Whether drinkin’ and writin’ during the Hour of the Wolf at 3 a.m. or watching the sun burnish the clouds of dawn before lighting up the land, eating lunch in the sun at noon, walking in the afternoon, etc., etc., I can’t imagine why I’d pick just one when I can have ‘em all.

The bright morning light glancing off the evidence of one season transitioning into another. Sometimes you get a neat mix like this.

Skipped school: Yes. I actually had to be talked into it.

Last phone call: My son, calling to tell me not to panic, he’s coming home super-late from a job that went into sudden-death overtime in Salida.

Last text from: My wife, to let me know she got the text I sent her informing her of my safe return over 15 miles of snowpacked road from Del Norte.

Watch someone die: Not the precise moment of death, but close enough. I heard my mom go into death-rattle breathing the night before she died. It was loud and weirdly steady, like one of those old, loud aquarium filter pumps.

Coke or Pepsi: Neither. I do a Diet Dr. Pepper if I absolutely must, which is only after I get up from a midday siesta, which I also avoid when I can.

Favorite pie: Cutie. Seriously, I have to pick one? Get outta here.

Favorite pizza: ideally, a supreme, with everything but the bait fish. Gotta have my onions and black olives with my ground sausage and beef and pepperoni, et al. A Hawaiian with the pineapple is okay, but only in the summer. What, pick one? No.

Favorite season: Happy to be here for all four. I made a point of moving to a part of the country where I could enjoy all four, though winter does seem to predominate here.

Hold your finger down and select copy. Or scratch an armpit with it. Preferably your own.

Then go into your own status, paste. Or eat paste. It makes as much sense.

Change with your answers. Or not. It’s a free country.

Have a day!

Setting your keyboard on fire and walking away like you don’t care that the rest of the house is burning down after you’ve Made Your Point is the new “dropping the mic.” Although that was stupid, too.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Summer’s Survivors of the Frosts

I’m walking past these guys in mid-October and thinking, “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, you’re lovely and all, but—what are you still doing here?”

The alpine aster is also known as a September glory because that’s the month you generally see the most of ‘em. This little guy must have been left to stand guard while his brothers and sisters went to sleep. He wasn’t the only one, either. There are still a few outliers to be found if you look.

Hollyhocks are among the toughest botanical beauties you’ll ever meet, given how they can grow tall and study from a seam in a sidewalk while blooming to shame the angels. Here, along US 160 on the west side of town, we behold the toughest of them all. They’re normally long gone by the end of September, but don’t tell this one. I’ve got a feeling it will punch you.

This one’s having a hard time letting go. It’s okay; I don’t take change very well, either.

There are tractor-trailer loads of crabapples still in the trees. I can only imagine what the sidewalks will look like next spring. We can all only hope there’s enough precipitation to help wash all the mess away.

All photographs Copyright © 2018 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved.

More October in Monte, 2018 Edition

I’d meant to fill this space with reflections on where I am regarding my various writing projects. Those are indeed forthcoming, but meanwhile these photo essays are just too easy to do when you’ve,  a) got a lot of great photos, and, b) got a lot of great photos.

It’s not the same pattern as 2017 or 2016, but it is a pattern to itself, with distinguishing glitches.

The dawn was already colored by the heavy cloud cover as it broke with the slow passing of the front, but the cold-burned leaves certainly added their hue here.

In A.D. 2018, the autumn pattern in our patch of the San Luis Valley is broken cloud cover, with wind in the afternoon. It’s yet to get bitterly cold (below 20°F/-6.6°C), although it has gotten cold enough to turn the gold leaves on our aspen to deep red and black, while also rusting the leaves of the tall Lombardy poplars. 

After a while, the gold does come through to catch virtual fire with the rising sun.

From one of the more spectacular sunsets this month. You usually don’t catch this kind of bronze-to-orange light anytime other than August. 

Although the cold nights have the luster of the changed leaves, it could be worse. Last year, we had a heavy, wet snow of the kind that we’re already overdue for in the Colorado high country. The snow melted, then refroze on the leaves and branches, effectively bringing an end to leaf-viewing season before Halloween.

To add insult to injury, that was the only snow we had all season long. With luck, the end of the current La NiƱa cycle should help break this drought.

Every season of every year has its own personality. Some are more agreeable than others. I got some nice pictures from this one, and some trees have yet to fully change. 

Snow would be good, though. Any day now....

Ice crystals in the upper troposphere create this prisming effect commonly know as a “sun dog.” The moisture is up there. We just need to get it down here.

All photographs Copyright © 2018 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved. Virtual coffee and doughnuts gratefully accepted via PayPal.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

October in Monte, 2018 Edition

It’s not just the days that go quickly now. It seems I can watch the leaves change color before my very eyes. 

It’s certainly like that with the aspen in our yard.

The poplars look as if they’re catching fire at their bases.

Inside, it’s getting a little spooky.

So let’s go back out. 

The storm clouds, which have come off and on throughout the days since the equinox, have made for interesting backdrops.

Of course, everything is better with sunshine and blue skies.

I’m pleased to note that autumn does last much longer here in the San Luis Valley than one would have a right to expect at our altitude, but like everything else this year, it’s going to be over with before we know it. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Coming attractions: knit caps and a pea coat.

All photographs Copyright © 2018 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved. Man, it’s been chilly here this week. Someone wanna buy me a hot chocolate?

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Getting Random on the Near East Side

I can’t think of a theme here. I only know that I need to tear myself away from the fascinations of far-west side Chapman Park and immediate-east (of Broadway/US 285) Acequia Drive. There are other fine scenes to bear witness to in this town as evidenced by the contents of my photo folders.

One of the busiest intersections in town in a quiet moment. To the left and at the end of the block is the Safeway, one of the two supermarkets in town. Behind me is the Colorado Potato Advisory Committee HQ. Here, I’m looking straight at one of the two liquor stores in town as the sun sets over Second Avenue.

After two years and change, a New Year’s resolution I should get to work on immediately is to broaden my local horizons. Old habits die hard for me, though. With minor variations, I walked the same three-mile route in Colorado Springs for just over nine years before I moved here.

This is probably the best photo I’ll ever get of the moon with this pocket camera. The zoom created an interestingly exaggerated perspective that included the southwest corner of the Carnegie Library at left, and the orange walls of Baldo’s Mexican restaurant one block over and centered.

In Monte Vista I only walk a short length of US 160 as it cuts through the near east side and out west, straying only mere blocks from the main road. The general “metro” area, such as it is for a small-to-mid-sized farming hub, extends several miles north and south. Much of it isn’t pedestrian friendly, of course, but there are still a lot more places my feet can take me than where I’ve already been so many times before. Also, why not drive to Homelake and walk around there, as I’ve been advised to do a few times since I’ve been here?

Looking west by southwest across Second Avenue on a particularly dramatic summer’s evening.

I can see this town filling up just as Colorado Springs did after we moved there in early 2007. It’s good seeing the economic expansion—Monte Vista has come a long way in two years—but I hope it moves at a much slower, far better managed pace than it was in Colorado Springs. 

One can only hope. Meanwhile, let’s savor the energy that comes with improving fortunes. There are fewer empty retail spaces than there were a year ago. We recently got a stretch of US 160 paved. It's a short stretch, and rather hastily and clumsily painted, but I’ll take it. 

The seasonal events were the biggest and best ever this year.

Yes, that’s me rockin’ my Perpetual Tourist attire in the reflection at left, complete with pocket camera.

I’ve always admired E. Sprouse-Rowe’s plate glass paintings, mainly for the energy it takes to go all over the San Luis Valley as she does making her mark. Here, though, we see Ms. Sprouse-Rowe channeling an inner Big Daddy Ed Roth I didn’t know she had. This is her finest illustration work, at least as I’ve seen it in Monte Vista (I don’t go out much.)

Oh, and one more thing. This vast, empty corner space is already open as a fitness center, even as they finish the remodel one bit at a time. Let’s hope this does well.

There’s a new energy even in older establishments like this one.

The Sugar Shack shut down shortly after we got here two years ago. It’s in an inconvenient location for travelers coming off the main road, and competing directly with a very clean and well-appointed gas station/convenience store next door, which also sits at a safer remove from that final bend on the east side where US 160 begins its straight east-west course through town. It’s a shame, but I don’t see how such a place could work. Maybe as a real estate office or somesuch, but not as a food service joint.

Thanks to the same helpful people who blow up my pageviews whenever I post links on the community’s Facebook page, I learned that the big mountain dominating the horizon in back is called Pintada Mountain, though it is often colloquially referred to as Baldy. The fall colors are especially striking this year.

One day I’ll get a really good shot of US 285 as it blazes a straight line north to Saguache. Not today, but I’ll keep at it.

All photographs Copyright © 2018 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved. If it’s worth a beer, drop some change here, and God bless.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

A Bumper Crop of Crabapples (Not Cherries)

...but they were this big and red and...ah, never mind. I learned a couple of things, though.

This is the end of the third summer I’ve seen here in Monte Vista, and I don’t remember this many cherries...well, I just learned they’re not cherries. Although there are a surfeit of cherry trees about town, most of them “ornamental” as opposed to functional (this should have been my first clue, come to think of it), what I saw were crabapples. Given the traffic this site gets when I post photos from around town, I am mortified beyond mortification.

There’s nothing to do but update and correct and move on. Something I was especially grateful to learn was the connection between a frost we had that inhibited the fruit-bearing of fruit-bearing trees. Our previous winter was exceptionally warm, so here we are. Aside from learning crabapples from cherries, it’s good to be reminded how much quirks in the weather can affect things.

I can’t explain why I was so taken by the sight of these along my customary walk. My best guess is it’s the contrast between the gentle roundness of the crabapples popping bold red against irregular surfaces. Like this red clay trail...

...among the green blades of grass...

...atop coarse gravel...

...lying vulnerable along a cool, unforgiving sidewalk.

Fortunately, they don’t stick to your shoes, because they can be difficult to avoid, especially on the west side of town.

All photographs Copyright © 2018 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. All rights reserved.