Monthly Archives: October 2015

Kingston Cemetery

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I took this photo of the entrance to Kingston Cemetery, outside of the tiny town of Kingston, New Mexico.

This is the entrance to Kingston Cemetery, outside of the tiny town of Kingston, New Mexico.

I went to Kingston, New Mexico because a map referred to it as a ghost town. What I found was a town with one main street. People were definitely living there. It wasn’t like the ghost towns I’ve seen in movies, with tumbleweeds and abandoned buildings. I guess it was once a boom town and now there aren’t many people living there, so it’s called a ghost town.

I wasn’t looking for the cemetery. I thought maybe I’d go to Silver City from Kingston, and was driving in that direction when I saw the cemetery and decided to stop.

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I like cemeteries. I think they are peaceful. I enjoy imagining the lives of the people buried there. I especially like looking at really old tombstones.

These are some of the cool tombstones I saw.

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This tombstone reads “Cecilia Shepperd Kelley Jan. 13, 1859-Sept. 30, 1892”

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In New Mexico, grave sites are often surrounded by fencing. I’d never seen such a thing in cemeteries until I visited New Mexico. Someone explained to me that the fencing is to keep cows off the graves. I couldn’t find any verification of that claim, so who knows?

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Here are two more cool tombstones:

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I think Kingston Cemetery is definitely the most interesting thing I saw in Kingston.

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(I took all of the photos in this post.)

Permanent Markers

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I was in Visalia, California after spending the day at the Sequoia National Park. I’d just pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, planning to spend the night there before heading out into the wilderness. I needed some office supplies, so I went in to make some purchases.

I found the items I needed, then made an impulse decision to buy of a three-pack of Sharpie markers for $1.64. Sharpies always come in handy, right?

I brought the purchases up to the counter. The cashier rang up my binder and my transparent plastic sheet protectors to go in the binder. When she rang up the Sharpies, I saw that the cash register asked the cashier to verify that I was over 18. She didn’t card me; I guess all my grey hair told her I was over 18.

I said to the cashier (who looked like she was barely out of her teens), You have to be 18 to buy Sharpies?

She very seriously said yes.

I started laughing and told her that was the silliest thing I’d ever heard.

She very seriously told me that they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I continued to laugh and asked, What about Marks-a-Lots?

She said, What’s that?

I said, That’s a brand of marker.

She repeated that they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I wish I hadn’t been so tired. If I had been on my toes, I’d have asked her a few questions. Is that a Wal-Mart corporate policy or the  policy of this individual store? Can local Wal-Marts decide what they will and won’t sell to people of various ages? Did the town of Visalia ask Wal-Mart not to sell permanent markers to minors? Is there a law in Visalia that minors can’t have permanent markers? Is it illegal for me to distribute to permanent markers to minors in Visalia, California?

At a Wal-Mart in Austin, Texas, I had to put my name on a list when I bought spray paint to cover rusty spots on my van. That was weird and invasive enough, but marker discrimination based on age? Ridiculous!

I decided to pose my questions to the Wal-Mart corporate office. This is the message I sent through the Wal-Mart.com contact page:

HI,
I was in the Wal-Mart on Mooney Avenue in Visalia, California last night. I was buying Sharpie markers. I noticed the cash register asked the cashier to verify that I was 18 so I could purchase the Sharpies. (I’m 44.) When I questioned her, the cashier said they don’t sell permanent markers to minors.

I have a few questions. Is that a Wal-Mart corporate policy or the  policy of this individual store? Can local Wal-Marts decide what they will and won’t sell to people of various ages? Did the town of Visalia ask Wal-Mart not to sell permanent markers to minors? Is there a law in Visalia that minors can’t have permanent markers? Is it illegal for me to distribute permanent markers to minors in Visalia, California? (I have no plans to distribute permanent markers to minors, but I just thought I should know my status in the event the situation arises.) What sort of markers can a person under the age of 18 purchase at this Wal-Mart store?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Wal-Mart has never answered my questions.

Getting By

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Last night I realized I had no blog post scheduled for today.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just go to the coffee shop after work and post an update of what I’ve been doing. No problem.

But now I’ve had dinner (that breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes, cheese, salsa, and green chiles was freaking awesome) and messed around too much on Facebook (which was supposed to be for promoting the blog, not for wasting my precious rare internet time), and I am tired. Tired, tired, tired. So please don’t expect this to be the best blog post you have ever read.

I’ve been working selling shiny rocks and the hemp jewelry and winter hats I handmake. The shoppers have been more like browsers than customers, mostly stuffy old people. I’m talking to everyone, trying to be charming and nice, showing everyone how the clasp on the jewelry works, letting them know I’m downsizing and offering good deals on rocks. I’ve made a little money every day, and keep reminding myself that any money I earn is more than I had. I’ve also met my goal of not yet having to dip into my savings and haven’t even had to use the money in my checking account to support my eating and gasoline habits. I’m making it; I’m getting by.

I have a house sitting job scheduled to start next week. The woman I’m house sitting for is super nice, and I’ll be caring for an adorable father and son doggy duo. The house is awesome. (I’m not often impressed by houses, but this one is absolutely lovely.) The house also includes a shower and flush toilet (not really unusual, as houses in the U.S. go), a washer and dryer, a million TV channels, and WiFi! (Oh precious WiFi!) I might just stay in the house accessing the internet for four days straight.

I don’t have any other house sitting jobs lined up, but I’ve been spreading the word that I’m still looking.

I’ve spent several nights on the couch in the studio casita belonging to my dear friend the Jewelry Lady. She is such a good friend! She’s been keeping me amused and feeding me dinner and letting me sleep on her aforementioned couch. I don’t want to take advantage of her generosity and hospitality by continually invading her small space, but I’ll probably be back there tomorrow night, as a low temperature of 24 degrees is predicted. I’m not sure I want to sleep in the van when it’s that cold.

I also reconnected in a platonic/nonromantic way with my Rock Guy/exboyfriend. I think he really missed me. He was very nice to me when I was out at his place. He insisted I sleep in his bed (while he slept on the floor!) and he presented me with a pair of shoes he’d scored for me at the local thrift store. I’m driving him to the big city for a doctor’s appointment early next week, and he’s talking about us going on a big road trip later this month. It’s good to be friends with him, but we are not getting back together, and that does make me a little sad.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say tonight. I need to do more writing, but at the end of the day, I am just so darn tired.

The Best Temp Job Ever

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I got the best temp job I ever had off of Craigslist. I sent an email, then talked to a lady on the phone. I never went in for an interview. In fact, I think the company I was working for was in North Carolina. I was in Austin, Texas.

My job was to give out food samples at supermarkets. The company was going to send me what I needed. Whatever they didn’t send me, I would pick up at the supermarket before my shift.

It was all rather disorganized. I wasn’t told what to wear until after my first shift. By that point I realized  no one from the supermarket knew I was going to show up, much less expected me to wear any sort of uniform. The folks in North Carolina were certainly not organized enough to check up on my clothing. I wore my sweet cowgirl boots, tights, a short skirt, and whatever cute top I had at the time.

Prior to my first shift, the company shipped a large box to me. The box contained napkins and small plastic cups. Once I got to the store, I checked in with the folks at customer service (who seemed to have no idea that I was scheduled to be there that day), then went off to find the snacks and beverages I was supposed to serve. The snacks were different kinds of mixed nuts. I put the nuts into tiny plastic cups and arranged them on the table the store dug out of the stockroom for me. The beverages were a variety of flavored seltzer waters, fizzy, but not very tasty.

It was fun to offer snacks to folks. Most people were willing to try the nuts. Nuts are healthy, packed with protein, everybody knows that.

Macro Photography of Pile of 3 CookieThe real fun began with the second of my three shifts. The box that arrived at my friends’ house prior to my workday contained not only napkins and plastic cups, but also individually wrapped cookies. There were oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. Yum!

Once I got to the store, I found the beverage customers would be sampling: a store brand bottled Frappuccino type coffee drink.

I set up my cookies and my coffee/sugar drink and waited for customers to approach. Whenever anyone came by, I asked, Would you like to try…? Many people did want to try, but a surprising number of people did not. I tend to try whatever is being given out, but if someone offers me a (full-sized) cookie, I have to remember to be polite and not yell out, Fuck Yeah! So I was a little startled whenever anyone said no thanks to my offer.

One lady actually told me, No thank you, I’m not hungry. I ask you, what does being hungry have to do with eating a cookie? (Maybe not knowing what being hungry has to do with eating a cookie explains why I am fat.) But come on…the cookies were individually wrapped. Even if she wasn’t hungry for the cookie right then, she could have taken it anyway and eaten it later.

My favorite person was the little old lady, who, when offered a choice of cookies, said she couldn’t make up her mind and asked if she could try both. YES! I was so glad she was bold enough to ask for what she wanted. I happily gave her two cookies.

After the first Saturday of cookie sample distribution, no one at the company asked how many cookies I had left or made any indication that I would have to return the leftovers. YES! I’d just just acquired at least 30 delicious cookies.

At the second (and last) cookie giveaway, I still offered cookies and coffee drink to everyone I saw, but I quit feeling personally offended when the cookies were rejected. Every cookie not accepted was one more for my larder. After my second cookie shift, I had at least 50 leftover cookies stashed in my van.

The company I was working for seemed really disorganized. Not only did they not tell me what to wear until it was too late, but they shipped a box of supplies for a demonstration I never agreed to work. I found out just how disorganized they were when it came time to get paid.

After working the last of my three shifts, I realized that I didn’t know when I was supposed to get paid, so I sent an email to the woman with whom I’d been communicating. She explained that because of when I worked, I’d be paid during the next pay cycle. Well, ok, I had no choice but to accept that.

I must explain that during this time I had no savings and very little income. I was living rent free with friends, visiting food banks as often as I could, and generally living hand to mouth. I needed the money I was owed.

When the time frame for receiving my check came and went, I contacted the woman in North Carolina again. She acted as if my check must have gotten lost in the mail and said she would send out another one. Before I could contact her again about my pay, I received an email that was obviously written to several employees. In the message, the woman I’d been talking to apologized for the pay being late and said she’d been negotiating with the owners of the company to get the checks sent out. That’s when I got mad! The woman lied to me about my check getting lost in the mail. This email made it obvious that no one had gotten paid.

At that point, I was about to leave Texas. I sent the woman an email giving her the address that she should send my paycheck to. I also told her that if my pay weren’t waiting for me in my mailbox by the time I got there, I would be forced to contact the Texas Workforce Commission and let them know that I had worked a job and not been paid. Sure enough, when I got to New Mexico, there was a postal money order waiting for me in the amount owed. I was glad to have it, but had to wonder, what kind of business pays employees with a postal money order? I wonder if the other workers ever got paid…

Handing out free samples was great fun, and I sure did enjoy eating and giving away those leftover cookies.

 

APPA

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This is APPA.

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This pin was a gift to me from the Okie while we were traveling together on I-40 from Santa Nella, California to Asheville , NC. The Okie found this pin in a truck stop somewhere in New Mexico. He found it on a bulletin board. It wasn’t for sale. The Okie didn’t steal it. Someone had left it on a bulletin board near the restrooms. The Okie recognized it and picked it up. He was very excited about it.

I’d never heard of APPA before. The Okie tried to explain it to me, but I never really understood.

I thought he’d called APPA The Traveling Elephant, but the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AppaTheDancingElephant/info?tab=page_info) calls it APPA The Dancing Elephant. I’ve just learned from the Facebook page that APPA stickers started out “as a gift to the Burning Man community.”

Here’s more about APPA:

For many years, APPA has been on the loose, turning heads, dancing to a global heartbeat.The APPA stargate was dialed and busted opened first in India, with our worldwide dance culture and much later, on the playa of the Burning Man festival, APPA’s bold lines, bouncy moves, activated third eye, and whompin step embody our collective vision to spread joy and a positive paradigm throughout the world.

So far 250,000 visionary APPA stickers have been freely distributed as a social statement of positivity worldwide.

The Okie was so excited about finding APPA (in a truck stop in New Mexico, of all places), that I was REALLY touched when after a few days, he said he thought that APPA should stay in the van with me and asked me if I would like to have it. I took it gratefully and humbly.

APPA lives on my sun visor over my driver’s seat, and has been with me through three vans now. Even when I was between vans and on foot again, APPA traveled with me. It reminds me of the road, even when I’m in the city, and it reminds me of my friend who loved me enough to gift me with something very special to him.

Photo of APPA by me.

Little-Known Painting by Ted DeGrazia

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I took this photo of a little-known painting by Ted DeGrazia in a building in Phoenix that was soon to be demolished.

Don’t know who Ted DeGrazia is? I didn’t either until Nolagirl took me to the building (which was open to the public for the weekend) to see this work and another long piece that covered an entire side wall. (I didn’t think I could get a good shot of that piece, so I didn’t even try. I couldn’t get the entirety of the piece in one shot, and the lighting was poor.)

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ettore_DeGrazia,

Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia (June 14, 1909 – September 17, 1982) was an American impressionist, painter, sculptor, composer, actor, director, designer, architect, jeweler, and lithographer. Described as “the world’s most reproduced artist”, DeGrazia is known for his colorful images of Native American children of the American Southwest and other Western scenes. DeGrazia also painted several series of exhibitions like the Papago Legends, Padre Kino, Cabeza de Vaca.

According to http://degrazia.org/about-degrazia/bio/,

The son of Italian immigrants, Ettore DeGrazia was born June 14, 1909, in the Morenci mining camp of Territorial Arizona. His early childhood experiences in the ethnically diverse community evolved into a lifelong appreciation of native cultures in the Sonoran Desert and a passion to create art depicting their lives and lore.

DeGrazia’s paintings, ceramics and other artwork steadily attracted media attention including the NBC newsreel “Watch the World” and a profile in the 1953 National Geographic article “From Tucson to Tombstone.”

From 1960 to the mid-1970s DeGrazia became wildly successful and the gallery flourished with hundreds of thousands of yearly visitors. To protest inheritance taxes on works of art, DeGrazia hauled about 100 of his paintings on horseback into the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix and set them ablaze in 1976. This infamous event was reported in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and People magazine, becoming part of DeGrazia’s legend before his death in 1982. By this time, the artist had established the DeGrazia Foundation to ensure the permanent preservation of his art and architecture for future generations.

As for the murals in the now demolished building?

According to http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/say-goodbye-to-ted-degrazia-and-lauren-lees-roosevelt-row-murals-6573461,

Despite public outcry, including a protest and an online petition, only the smaller of two Ted DeGrazia murals, the one portraying a dancer[photo above], inside the 222 building will be salvaged.

DeGrazia painted the murals, the larger of which depicts the history of alcohol, more than a half-century ago.

According to http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/arts/2015/03/05/degrazia-murals-open-to-public-at-green-haus-in-phoenix-during-art-detour/24402531/,

DeGrazia painted the 47-foot mural of cancan girls, alcohol distillation and flying women with chalices 65 years ago to pay off — legend has it — a bar tab at a Phoenix lounge. Experts estimated it would cost at least $250,000 to save. Although there was a public outcry, no one stepped forward with funding or a concrete plan to preserve and re-install the mural elsewhere.

The Observer reported in January 2015,

The larger mural has been protected by a wall since the building became a working studio. The smaller one is painted on drywall that apparently could be moved to a new location, but the big mural is drywall-on-brick and probably can’t be moved. (http://www.observerweekly.com/content/historic-phoenix-bar%E2%80%99s-ted-degrazia-murals-facing-bulldozer)

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This photo by Catherine Slye shows part of DeGrazia’s larger mural that was demolished along with the building.

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Another photo by Catherine Slye shows a different section of DeGrazia’s larger mural.

I was glad to have the opportunity to see these murals before they were demolished along with the building to make room for more housing for rich people in Phoenix. I guess that’s progress.

a Little Matter with a Bridge in San Francisco

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In the autumn of 2012, I was traveling in California with my friend Mr. Carolina, and there was a little matter with a bridge in San Francisco.

Mr. Carolina was driving my van, and he thought he was taking the way which would save us the toll. We literally had no money to give to any nice toll collector, so he was trying to avoid them. We saw the “last exit before toll” signs, but it was just one of those driving moments when you don’t know what exactly to do, so he just kept forging ahead. When we got to the toll booth, he very sweetly explained to the lady that we didn’t have any money to give her. (With Mr. Carolina’s Southern accent, who knows, really, how much of what he says any stranger understands? I spent a majority of my time with the man for two months, and even at the end I would sometimes have to tell him I had no idea what he was saying.)

The toll booth worker had a pre-printed card for just such an occasion. We were not the first to arrive at that bridge with no money in our pockets. The card said I would be charged $25, which would increase to $70 if I did not pay up in a timely fashion. I put it out of my mind, deciding I would deal with it when I got a bill.

I expected to have a bill when I (finally) got to Austin, but there was nothing waiting for me. I was out of touch with the woman who was checking my PO box in Taos, but when I got in contact with her, she reported she’d found no letter from the state of California in my box. I told Lou the whole story, and she encouraged me to find out what the status was while still in Austin. Maybe it fell through the cracks, my mailbox checker suggested, but I didn’t expect to be that lucky.

Finally, I told myself I just had to deal with it. If Cali was asking for $70, I would try to talk them down to $25 since I had never gotten a notice in the mail. If they insisted on $70, I would ask for a payment plan. If I decided not to pay them, it would at least be a conscious decision and not just an avoiding of the situation.

The woman I spoke to on the phone was polite and efficient. What was my license plate number? When had the situation occurred? It happened in October and I had still not received a notice? That was strange. I should have received a notice by now. (By this time it was January.) Well, there was nothing in her system. Not a thing. My license plate number did not come up. No record of any toll violation. I could call my department of motor vehicles, but nothing showed up in her system and if there was a violation, it would be in her system. I said thank you very much and hung up the phone feeling quite relieved.

I think the toll booth worker was an angel who let us go on our way toward Northern California. Or maybe it was Mr. Carolina’s bubble of safety that protected us once again. In any case, thank you angels, bubble, kindness of tollbooth worker stranger, whatever saved me from giving my money to the state of California.

The Walls of Phoenix

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I was going to sell jewelry and shiny rocks in a parking lot craft market near Roosevelt Row during First Friday. I arrived early, so I walked around a bit and took some photos of the murals painted in the area.

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This mural is on the wall of a very small parking area. If a car had been parked in this spot, I’d have never seen this mural, much less gotten a photo of it.

The paintings in the next several photos are on a building on 4th Street, almost on the corner of Roosevelt. The actual corner of 4th Street and Roosevelt is a vacant lot, so this mural is visible from Roosevelt Street.

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This is about one-third of the full mural.

 

This is a detail of the detail.

This is a detail of the detail. I really like the Day of the Dead-meets-flapper look, although I’m not sure how a skull could possibly have lips and eyelashes.

 

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And how could a skull have eyeballs? I do like this dapper skull guy.

The other two thirds of the mural has a different vibe, more ethereal and dreamy.

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I found out online that this portion of the mural was painted by Tato Caraveo. http://www.thelostleaf.org/Murals.aspx

 

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This portion of the mural is also by Tato Caraveo. To see him working on it, go to http://www.thelostleaf.org/Murals.aspx and scroll down.

 

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I especially like this cat and its shadow.

The next piece has more of a graffiti vibe to it. It was painted just under the rafters of what seems to be an abandoned house.

I believe I took this photo between 4th and 5th streets on Garfield, but maybe it was between 5th and 6th Streets.

I believe I took this photo of cow graffiti between 4th and 5th Streets on Garfield, but maybe it was between 5th and 6th Streets…definitely on Garfield though.

The last piece is at 3rd Street and Roosevelt, and I took the photo the next afternoon when I was out and about with Nolagirl.

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This mural was painted by Lauren Lee, and it’s called Three Birds.

The building this mural is on is scheduled for demolition. By the time you read this post, this mural will probably be forever gone.

(I took all the photos in this post.)

Monthly Book Review: The Horse Whisperer

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I’ve decided to post a book review each month for as long as I have interesting reviews to share. This month’s book is The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. I wrote this review in November of 2014. Warning: This review contains many spoilers. I think it’s ok to share spoilers, because who hasn’t read this book or seen the movie? Are there others blooming later than I did?

The Horse Whisperer

Where do I begin with this book?

First of all, I have to say that I really didn’t know much about this book when I started reading it. I somehow managed to miss most of the hype about it during the last century when it was on the bestseller list and then made into a movie. It’s about horses right? And maybe Robert Redford is in the movie? And remember, there was a time before this book when there were no whisperers? No horse whisperers, dog whisperers, or baby whisperers. Well, sure, there were probably folks whispering to horses, dogs, babies, and who knows what else (tree whisperers? pigeon whisperers?), but no one called them whisperers. So, thank you Nicholas Evans for adding a word/concept to the English language.

Secondly, (and rather importantly) I could barely put this book down. I tore through it in about 24 hours. (I did other things in addition to reading this book.) The writing is easily read and the story and characters grabbed me. I really wanted to know what happened next, even closer to the end where the cheese factor increased considerably.

All that said, I found most of this book either predictable or improbable.

Predictable: The author described snow, young teenagers on horseback, and an 18-wheeler, and I knew right away that something terrible was going to happen.

Predictable: Rich, white, cosmopolitan, intellectual married woman from the city goes out West and finds herself, peace of mind and true love. She also reconnects with her daughter.

Predictable: The above mentioned woman finds herself, peace of mind and  true love thanks to a handsome, gentle, rugged, smart Western man. (This man is the horse whisperer of the title. It seems he whispers to more than just horses.)

Predictable: The sex with the man from the West is incredible. (A word about sex. There are a few sex scenes in this book. They are fairly hot, but it seems that when Evans wrote this book, he knew no words, neither slang nor medical, for either male of female genitals.)

Predictable: After the man sets everything right for the woman, a baby seals the deal, and the woman basks in the warm, mentally healthy glow of motherhood.

Predictable: The Western man (is he a Jesus figure?) saves the horse too.

Improbable: That not one, but two smart, kind, loving men could fall madly in love and want to be with a controlling, complaining, pushy woman like the main character. Was it just because she was pretty? Of course, the Western man brings out her true kind and loving self . Oh, she was really a wonderful person inside all along. She just needed true love to bring her true nature to the surface. (I guess this one is both improbable and predictable.)

Improbable: That the Western man would kill himself (and death by horse, no less) because he couldn’t be with his true love. I could hardly believe it when it happened. Give me a break. He must totally be Jesus. He sacrifices himself so the woman’s little family can stay intact. I. Don’t. Believe. It.

One thing I really hated about this book is the idea that it puts out there that if one finds one’s “true love,” there is only now, so go ahead and disregard the person you’ve been married to for nearly two decades and just have sex with this person you’ve known for a month. This sex thing after a month, that’s not even love. That’s hormones! I’m not even married. I don’t even believe in marriage. But if a person is in any kind of monogamous relationship, I don’t think it’s OK to just have sex with another person. But this book gave a whole generation permission to just do it! (And I’m not talking about jogging or basketball.)

Bottom line: This book is a romance novel with a questionable moral message. I think the horses were thrown in to trick men into buying the book too.