Monthly Archives: January 2018

Mesa Pioneer Monument

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Pioneers in Mesa’s Pioneer Park

The last time I lived in Mesa, AZ, I visited the city’s Pioneer Park at 26 E Main Street. Near the southern entrance to the park is the Pioneer Monument.

In an article on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titled “Statue Honoring Arizona Pioneers Dedicated,” the history of the statue is told. In the mid-80s, sculptor Claude Pomeroy was in Pioneer Park and heard someone suggest its name be changed to Rose Garden Park. Pomeroy

decided to make sure Mesa’s residents didn’t forget their colorful pioneer heritage.

[T]he four leaders of the First Mesa Company of 1878 [are] depicted by the statue.

Charles I. Robson, George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, and the sculptor’s grandfather, Francis Martin Pomeroy, were portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a shovel, a gun, a spirit level, and a map of the townsite.

A woman and a boy, referred to in the article as well as on the plaque on display with the sculpture only as “mother and child” are behind the male settlers. I suppose this means the women and the children present during this time in Mesa’s history are not real pioneers, they’re more of an afterthought, those whose places are behind the real (male) pioneers. I supppose this means only the men and their work were important.

Did the sculptor not know of any real women and children of the time to base his work on? Perhaps he could have used his own grandmother as a pioneer model, as he used his grandfather.

Surely Pomeroy could have included female pioneers in his work if he had chosen to. The women could have been portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a butter churn perhaps, an iron, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread. Women’s work has always been important and it’s terrible that history and artists like Pomeroy have ignored that work.

I apologize to the unnamed pioneer woman pictured here for relegating her to the shadows. My arm placement was rather unfortunate in light of my desire to have the pioneer women of Mesa given their due.

Am I surprised that a piece of public art made by a artist who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and depicting people of the same religion relegate a woman and child to the back of the crowd? Am I surprised that female ancestors are not given the same respect as male ancestors? Am I surprised the ratio of men to women in the statue is 4 to 1? Am I surprised that women and their work are mostly ignored? I’m not surprised by any of those facts, but I am still disappointed.

A second plaque on display with the sculpture does a better job of being inclusive. It states,

This monument is dedicated to the founding men, women, and children of Mesa whose efforts, with others of all races, religions, and cultures, changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today.

I would like to see another artist come along and get a grant from the city to make a second monument for the park. In the new monument, women would stand tall and proud next to their husbands and sons, fathers and brothers. The new statue could be called Women Were Pioneers Too, and the women depicted could stand with a butter churn, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread, and an iron.

While I’m wishing, I’d also like to see a third piece of art, this one depicting the men and women native to the area, as well as the

others of all races, religions, and cultures, [who] changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today…

mentioned earlier. It’s time to stop honoring only the white people (usually men) who came into an area and made it their own. If we’re going to honor people, we need to be diverse and inclusive.

I took the photos in this post.

The Grapes of Wrath

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I grew up in the Deep South, a member of a conservative Catholic family.

My family wasn’t ultra conservative, but conservative enough. My dad let it be known he voted Republican. My mother didn’t talk much about her voting habits, but I always assumed she was voting like my dad was. My dad probably assumed the same thing. I’m sure his belief that my mother agreed with him increased family harmony.

I remember my dad talking shit on unions. He explained unions to me by saying if a company was unionized, the owner of the company couldn’t hire the people he (of course the owner of any company must be a man) wanted to hire. Let me be clear. My father never owned a company, never came close to being a member of the owning class. Why he cared about a company owner’s freedom to hire nonunion workers, I have no idea. Like so many working-class Republicans, he was living with some intense cognitive dissonance.

My dad was a hardworking white man who fed his family and paid the bills with no more than a high school diploma. It never occurred to him that other people might not be able to get by with an equal amount of hard work.

My dad backed Gerald Ford in the 1976 election, so my five-year-old self supported Ford too. My kindergarten class got to vote for president. One of the teachers took a refrigerator box and hung photos of Ford and Jimmy Carter inside. We kids went into the box one at a time and put a mark next to the photo of our candidate of choice. I made my mark for Ford, because that’s what my dad would have done. Read the rest of this entry

In Praise of a Sun Hat

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It’s difficult to find a sun hat that’s just right.

To me, the most important feature of a sun hat is a wide brim. If I’m wearing a hat for a reason other than to keep my head warm, it’s to keep the sun off my face. If I’m trying to keep the sun off my face, I want a wide brim to provide as much coverage as possible.

The second most important feature of a sun hat for me is that it’s made from natural fibers. During my search for a perfect hat, I bought on at Costco for $15. It had good coverage and it looked cute on me, but when I wore it in the beating sun of Northern New Mexico, my whole body felt overheated. I hadn’t paid attentiong to the tag which detailed the materials from which the hat had been made, but I gave it a look after feeling unexplainably much too hot for a couple of days. Yep–polyester. It was made from a polyester blend. I knew wearing clothes made from polyester (even blends!) was not for me. Polyester makes my armpits exceedingly stinky and keeps me really hot. In the winter, I can wear clothing with some polyester in it when I’m trying to stay warm (I just live with my extra stinky armpits), but in the summer? Forget about it! My Costco hat proved even polyester headgear holds in too much of my heat and makes me uncomfortable.

The third feature I want in a hat is crushability. I live a rough and tumble life, and my material possessions have to stand up to that. I need my material possession–including my sun hat–to be rugged. My hat is eventually going to be sat on or stepped on, or I’ll have to shove it into a backpack or duffle bag. My hat has to be able to bounce back from anything I put it through.

A sun hat really needs to fit the three criteria–wide brim, made from natural fibers, crushable–to mark the hat as right for me. The Costso hat had lulled me by being crushable and having a wide brim, but the synthetic fibers it was constructed from really brought me down.

Years ago, when I was in AmeriCorps and worked outside, I had a great hat to protect me from the sun. I bought it from a gardening store for $25, which was a big investment for me at the time. The money I paid was worth it for the wide sunclocking brim, the construction from natural fibers, and its ability to bounce back after being crushed. The hat held up to my use and abuse too. It was still in good shape when I left it behind during a sudden move. This hat is the one all others must measure up to.

I discovered the Costco hat wasn’t going to cut it while vending in the spring in Northern New Mexico. I had no shade and the days in the sun were hot, but I didn’t think I should feel so overheated so early in the season. When I suspected my hat was the culprit, I wanted to replace it as soon as possible.

One of the other vendors was selling sun hats. The were from Africa, the vendor told me. (As one of my textbooks in collage pointed out, Africa is a big place, but the vendor couldn’t tell me specifically in which African nation the hats had been made.) The hats were handmade, from grass. They were crushable, and they could be doused with water, then shaped. The price was $29, a little more than double what the Costco hat had cost, but I didn’t think I could make it through the summer with polyester on my head. I bought the hat woven from grass.

So far, the new hat’s held up well. I hang it next to the van’s side door for easy access, and that’s working out. Even though I think it could stand up to my butt or foot on top if it, hanging it keeps it safe and out of my way.

The hat’s a little too big for me, but I chose the one with the widest brim, which ended up being the biggest hat. If i’m wearing the hat for many hours, and I don’t want it sliding around on my head, I tie on a bandana before putting on the hat. I also make sure the chinstrap is cinched whenever I wear it so a sudden gust of wind doesn’t blow away my hat.

The hat is not only functional, it’s pretty too. The weave is nice and tight, and I like the dyed “hatband” that’s actually part of the hat.

Most importantly, the hat keeps the sun off my face and keeps my head cool. The natural fibers let my head breathe, and I don’t feel overheated when I wear it. Even for $29, it was quite a score.

I took the photo of my head and my hat. I didn’t even use a selfie stick.

 

Primitive Camping at Brantley Lake State Park

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I’d gotten a New Mexico State Parks annual camping pass. It was The Man’s idea. I’d thought about getting the pass before, but The Man said this winter we could each get one and spend the season in New Mexico State Parks. He’d wrap stones with copper wire to make pendants, and I could write.

We met up at Leasburg Dam State Park after a month apart and stayed there a couple of nights. The Man thought he might be able to make some money in Carlsbad or Roswell, so we took off to that part of the state, planning to camp at Brantley Lake State Park.

Brantley Lake is between Carlsbad and Roswell, off of Highway 285. It’s closer to Carlsbad (about 12 miles) and is about 70 miles from Roswell. We’d stayed in the park’s Limestone Campground once before, when we’d been in the area the previous spring, after our visit to Carlsbad Caverns.

I remembered two important things about the park.

#1 All of the sites in Limestone Campground have electricity, so they all cost $14 per night instead of the regular $10 per night of the developed, non-electric sites covered by our camping passes. If we wanted to stay in the campground, we’d have to pay an extra $4 per night for our site.

New Mexico & Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide
#2 The park offers primitive camping. I remembered the camp host taling about the primitive camping when we’d been there in the spring, and I confirmed primitive camping with my guidebook, New Mexico and Arizona State Parks: A Complete Recreation Guide by Don and Barbara Laine. Primitive camping only costs $8 per night and is covered by our passes.

It was dark when we pulled into Brantley Lake State Park, but we followed the signs to Rocky Bay, the primitive camping area. We parked our vans in a spot just off the road and a short walk from the lake. That’s where we settled in for the night.

In the morning, we got a better lay of the land. The primitive camping area has no designated camping spots, but

I parked that close to the water.

there were several flat areas next to the water where people had obviously camped before. During the days before and after Thanksgiving, there weren’t many primitive campers, so there was plenty of room for everyone to spread out. (We could see our nearest neighbors on both sides, but all we heard of them was the enthusiastic drumming of the people to our right. The sound was quite faint, merely background noise, which was good because the drumming went on well after dark and started again between 4:30 and 5 in the morning.)

Like most primitive camping I’ve encountered, this area had not amenities. It was a leave no trace kind of place where campers must pack out what they’ve packed in. However, the trash doesn’t have to be packed out very far. There are several dumpsters in Limestone Campground, and no one complained about us throwing several bags of trash into one. I suppose they’d rather have the trash from the primitive camping area deposited into the dumpsters rather than having it left behind to be blown into the water.

Day use area at sunset

While there are no restrooms in the primitive camping area (not even portable toilets, the camp host had said to me in the spring), we made ourselves at home in the restrooms in the day use area and the campground. Again, no one seemed to mind. The day use area was closer to where we camped, so we used the restrooms there more frequently than we used the ones in the campground.  The restrooms in the day use area seemed to be unlocked 24 hours a day and had flush toilets and sinks with running water, but no showers.

The showers are in Limestone Campground, and The Man and I utilized them twice during our stay of a little over a week. Nobody challenged our use of them. I think anyone in the park (probably even folks doing day use) could have a shower with no questions asked.

The Man says he had two great showers with plenty of hot water in the men’s shower house. Of course, having to press the button repeatedly so the water would flow was a little annoying, but that’s the way it works in New Mexico state parks. Overall, he enjoyed his shower experience.

Me? Not so much.

I like a hot shower, but the water in the stall I picked the first time was barely warm. I chose a different stall for my second shower, but the water was no warmer. I thought maybe the problem the first time was that because the shower head was so high and I’m so short, maybe the water cooled by the time it hit me. I brought a cup with me the second time, and even when I put the cup right up to the shower head, the water that filled it was barely warm.

Why did I have a cup in the shower with me? Because the shower head was mounted so high and because the water came out of it in a diffused spray, it had been impossible for me to rinse the soap from my privates during my first cleansing episode. The second time I brought a cup so I could rinse.

By the time I finished my first shower, I was literally sobbing. I was so cold, and I couldn’t rinse, and my whole life seemed like a rotten mess. I was a little more stoic the second time because I knew I wasn’t going to get a piping hot shower, and I had my cup, so I could rinse. I was in and out in a flash. Wash and rinse my hair–wash and rinse my pits–wash and rinse my privates–done!

Everything else about the primitive camping experience was fine, except for the number of flies that invaded my

The vegetation of the area

van each day. It’s nature though–there’s going to be bugs! The Man thought the area was ugly, and he said he could smell the stench of refinery and lake pollution, and I believe the word shithole was spoken. I thought the area was pretty enough, in its own way. Shade trees would have been nice, but the fall temperatures were cool enough not to desperately need shade. (I wouldn’t want to camp out there in the summer with no shade.) Also, it being New Mexico, the wind was quite strong on some days. Anyone planning to set up any sort of tent out there should weigh it down well.

I enjoyed my time in the Brantley Lake State Park primitive camping area. We had plenty of privacy and weren’t bothered by any other campers. It was cool (literally and figuratively) to park near the water, and I saw a roadrunner and a great blue heron quite close to our campsite. Also, you can’t beat a New Mexico sunset, especially over the water.

New Mexico sunset over the water

I took the photos in this post. The book cover is an Amazon link. If you click on it, I get a small advertising fee on any item you put in your cart and purchase during that shopping session.

 

 

Little Free Library (Family Practice Associates of Taos)

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Like the Little Free Libray at the Youth & Family Center and the one on the Mesa, the third Little Free Library I discovered inTaos County was a complete surprise.

I needed to use an ATM, and there was only one in Taos that partnered with my credit union. I could use that particular ATM and not pay a fee, so that’s the one I headed to. Unfortunatly, there was a problem with my withdrawal, so I had to pull into a parking space to call my credit union. While I was dialing the number, I noticed what appeared to be a Little Free Library across the way, in front of the building housing Family Practice Associates of Taos. When I finished my call, I walked over to investigate. Yep, it was a Little Free Library.

Unlike the other two Little Free Libraries I found in Taos, this one was not made from a a re-purposed newspaper vending machine. This Little Free Library was built from wood and had a door that opened and a glass window in the door. While I really appreciate the fact that the other Little Free Libraries are making use of something that was probably otherwise headed to the landfill, I also appreciate the beauty of the library near Family Practice Associates of Taos. I think the color scheme of the library is lovely, as are the two decorative birds above the door. If there were a contest going on, this library would win my vote for prettiest in Taos.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what a Little Free Library looks like. What matters is that people can get free reading material out of a Little Free Library. What matters is that a Little Free Library is a gift economy. What mattters is Little Free Libraries build communities. Of course, being pretty doesn’t hurt.

I didn’t leave any books in this Little Free Library, and I didn’t take any either. I had plenty of books to read and my van was full to bursting with all my stuff and The Man’s too. I simply took a few photos and left the Little Free Library as I found it.

I took all the photos in this post.

 

(Guest Post) How I Traveled to the UK in My RV for 14 Days (Real Life Story)

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Have you always dreamed of traveling but did not where to start from? Have you ever thought about traveling in the so-called recreational vehicle? It is a trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home – thanks to the wheels that can take you anywhere in the world and the comfort of home, people can travel for a really long time without any problems. The big size of the trailer lets the traveler take several fellow-passengers. If you wish to get inspired, simply read this real-life story about how I traveled to the UK in my RV for 14 days.

 

“RV Europe” has always been the combination of words that made my knees tremble – I wanted it so much! Because I live in Berlin, the way had to be quite long – the Google Maps told me I had to drive approximately 12 hours non-stop to reach London. It was a quite responsible and serious trip, that is why I had to prepare for it properly. First of all, I had to decide on the people I was taking with me, the quantity of days I wanted this trip to be, and the things I would need in my adventure.

I decided to take my three friends who dreamed of traveling so far, too. I thought about how many days would be enough for our company to spend in the UK, and 14 days seemed the perfect period. As for the things to take with me, it was, in fact, not a big problem. The trailer had enough space for all the clothes I needed, the fridge was able to hold a lot of food, and there was enough space even for the laptop and video games. I needed to plan a trip across Europe – that was the most difficult part.

When I looked at the map with the biggest cities on my way, I decided I wanted to stop in Hannover, Dortmund, Antwerpen, Gent, Dunkerque, and, finally, London. I was not confident whether we would travel around the UK or stay in London throughout the whole time. I googled the places to see in those cities – listed buildings, cozy parks, and atmospheric pubs and cafes. And, of course, I did the same research for London – the latter took much more time because the city is huge and really diversified.

I have been thinking a lot how to plan a trip through UK and decided to visit Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool as well.  We would stop in the beautiful villages and towns on our way, too. When the plan was ready, we were ready to go. We decided to leave early in the morning to see the beauty of the road trip in the daytime.

The road was empty because our trip started on Saturday. Just riding on the highway was a pure pleasure – watching the beautiful forests and fields on the sides of the road was incredible. After riding for more than four hours, my friend replaced my position as the driver – this is another benefit of traveling with a big company because you are not obliged to sit at the steering wheel all the time.

Among the cities that we passed by, for some reason, it was Dunkerque that impressed me most. The reason might be the film of the same name shot by Christopher Nolan that I have seen recently. The place was breathing with history, and the fact that it is situated near the sea made it an amazing experience for us to stop and spend a couple of hours there.

 

Finally, we went inside the Eurotunnel, and it was a surreal experience to drive for one hour and a half in the closed space. The feeling that space was surrounded by water was absolutely amazing. When we finally came to London and saw Big Ben, I felt pure happiness. Berlin is a beautiful place to be but the architecture suffered a lot during the World War II, and the majority of the city is quite contemporary. However, the beauty of London cannot be expressed by words. The city combines both contemporary architecture and the old one.

We stayed in London for a week – during this time we saw all the listed buildings, visited all the beautiful parks, and drank beer in all the atmospheric pubs. We slept in our trailer at the roadside rest stops – in spite of a number of warnings of my parents about possible robberies, nothing bad happened to us, and we were happy we had such an amazing experience.

After London, we went to see Birmingham – I have not heard about this city much, but it turned out to be the second after London and a pretty beautiful one as well. We went to its famous Bullring to do some shopping, and we were amazed by the quantity of shops there. After that, we visited The Old Crown – the oldest building in the city where we drank amazing cider and ate some fish and chips. Finally, we dedicated a whole day to a tour of in  Cadbury World not far from Birmingham and saw how the chocolate is made.

In Manchester, we went to the museum about the city and were amazed how interactive and interesting it was. In Liverpool, we visited the museum dedicated to The Beatles and drank a couple of beers in The Cavern Club where they used to perform. When it was time to drive home, we were already a bit tired and looked forward to it.

When the trip was over, I felt like a could write a book on how to travel through UK, and I was really proud of that. I felt like now, I can make even the bigger trip – it seemed challenging and exciting simultaneously. I started thinking about exploring Russia, but this trip needed a really good plan and an awesome preparation.

 

Bryan Davis has been working for https://australianwritings.com.au/essay-writing-service for more than one year, and he has already become one of the best writers on the website. His hobbies are traveling and mobile photography, and he successfully combines those with his job.

 

Stupid Questions

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There are no stupid questions, educators like to say, but that’s clearly a lie. I’m no stranger to stupid questions. Anyone who works with the public has probably heard plenty of questions eliciting an eye roll or shaking of the head. Of course, we think we’ve heard it all until the next one comes along. I didn’t think I was capable of being surprised but in about 30 minutes one September afternoon, I heard two of the dumbest questions to ever stimulate my eardrums.

I walked out of the back door of the mercantile, step stool in hand, ready to close the yurt’s windows. An SUV was stopped on the road between the mercantile and the camp host’s site. A woman jumped out of the SUV, smiled, and said hi to me. I greeted her, and she asked, The ones with the open signs? Are they open?

She was referring to campsites. Any campsite that’s not been reserved is marked with a sign that reads “open.” Apparently the woman didn’t trust signs and didn’t believe the campsites clearly marked “open” were actually available. I didn’t trust myself to answer her question without saying something snarky, so I simply directed her to the camp host.

After closing the windows, I went back inside and told the mercantile manager what the woman had asked me. We shook our heads and rolled our eyes and felt assured this one took the cake.

But wait! There’s more!

Just as the manager was about to shut the doors for the day, a car pulled into the parking area in front of the store. The people in the car wanted to walk the trail, so the manager said we could sell them the access pass before we closed the register.  The tourist lady was talking a mile a minute as she walked up the ramp to the mercantile. She must have asked the manager what the platforms throughout the campground were for. The manager said, yurts, but before she could explain what a yurt was or say that the actual structures had been taken down for the winter, the tourist lady busted out with Do you have to bring your own yurt?

Perhaps the woman didn’t know what exactly a yurt is. Maybe she` thought “yurt” is just another name for “tent.” She must not have known that yurts are big (the ones the company I work for rents out to campers are 15 feet in diameter) and expensive. While yurts are movable, it’s quite a bit of work to set one up, then take it down. Most people probably don’t have a yurt and those that do probably aren’t traveling with them.

I couldn’t help giggling a little when I heard the woman ask if she needed to bring her own yurt. I had settled my face into a neutral expression by the time the woman entered the store. I took her money and handed her an access pass, and she went on her way.

Bring your own yurt? the manager and I said to each other and laughed. This question really did take the cake.

I’d planned to end this post here, but on my last weekend working at the parking lot, I got what is quite possibly the stupidest question ever. I can’t imagine a dumber question, but then again, people never cease to amaze me.

I was working at the parking lot on the very last day of the season. The sky was hazy with smoke from a wildfire fifty miles away. The fire had been burning for at least a week, and every morning, the sky was hazy from its smoke. By the afternoon, the smoke cleared and the sky was blue until the sun set.

All day people had been asking about the smoke and the air quality. Campers from one campground I was covering decided not to stay another night because they were worried about hiking the next morning with smoke in the air. Honestly, I don’t know if the air quality was dangerous. No one bothered to give me that information. We were’t wading through low-lying smoke and there was no ash falling on our heads, so the air quality seemed ok to me.

A car pulled into the parking lot, and I wasn’t surprised when the passenger’s first question was about the smoke. It’s what she asked that earned her the distinction of stupidest question ever.

Is the smoke from fire?

I didn’t even ask her if it’s possible for smoke to come from any other source.