Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Whiffle Ball And Other Extremities

So what has Lost In America been up to? If you care to know, we spent a whole week in Boulder at our most gracious and hospitable friend Karen's apartment. Boulder has a lot going on if you know where to look; on the outside it's become very upscale commercial, especially along Pearl Street, the pedestrian mall. One relief from this comes on Thursday nights, where informed people gather at a park with their bicycles and ride all around the city yelling "Happy Thursday!" to everyone they pass. Liz and I were fortunate to participate in this. The theme was "80's Prom Night." So, borrowing from Karen's more extensive wardrobe, we got dolled up and rolled out with the largest Happy Thursday crowd yet-- well over 400 people, many of them, er, happier than usual, and dressed to the glittery nines. Not just the people, mind you, but their vehicles as well; Boulder folks are obsessed with bikes. The coolest I think, besides the ones trailing stereo systems blasting Bon Jovi, was one which had two stems; one in the regular part at the handlebars, and another below the seat so that the front of the bike can swivel independently of the rear, and so can be on the street and the sidewalk at the same time.

Another diversion that I have not enjoyed since I was about 8 is whiffle ball. You know, the plastic yellow bat and the hollow plastic ball; what a modern invention! That game is dangerous, even when the participants are mostly math majors (I will say, they can throw a mean curveball... well, one of them can). You can check the blog for a couple pictures of my great wound.

Boulder is a beer town, and I could bore you to drunkenness with my account of all the great ones I tried. The best was probably Collaboration Not Litigation by Avery/Russian River (that's right, it's a blend...). That's all I'll tell you here. Of more interest are our plans for the future that have maintained only one part of their original form:

So we joined WWOOF, which is a great acronym for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically you can go anywhere in the world where there is something called "organic" and work a set amount of hours per week, typically 25, in exchange for room & board, which can be anything from, "we have a cabin on a mountain and supply food for you to cook," to, "you can camp under a tree by the wilderness, and eat meals from the restaurant that your work will supply." This last option is the one that we have chosen and will begin this weekend, duration to be anywhere from two weeks to x number of months... probably not that many though.

But where are you now?!?!? you may be asking. If you're that curious, we're about 5 miles south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. A variety of factors contributed to our arrival:

1) We were going to help a woman build a cob house (that's sand, mud, and straw, not corn skeletons), but she was a major flake and too busy to give us any reasonable response to our queries. We even went to her town to try to find her. It was a small town (about 2,000 people) and even her coworkers could not locate her. I presume her to be an internet ghost.

2) We were going to hike to Conundrum hot springs in Colorado, the highest public hot springs in the U.S., but the 9 mile path was washed out in parts and inadvisable according to the Forest Service. The night before we spent in Aspen, the stomping grounds of the late Hunter S. Thompson. That town in no way represents him. It is a richass ski town, where nothing costs fewer than ten dollars (even a sandwich).

3) After these two things fell through, we went to Mesa Verde, recommended by our friend Emma with whom we stayed in Denver. Mesa Verde is the geological beginning of what is inaccurately deemed the Southwest in spaghetti Westerns, which are actually set in Italy. Though we saw some Italian tourists, we also saw some old American Indian dwellings that date back to 1300 A.D.

4) To continue our tour of the Southwest, we chose Chaco Canyon, another abandoned ancestral Pueblo abode. We ran into a problem: the unfortunate combination of Hurricane Dolly's long, wet fingers and a 20 mile dirt road, meant to deter random tourists from eroding the already rickety stone foundations of the kivas and pueblos. We didn't make it, to say the least. Luckily, just 120 miles away was a great, cheap hostel with free food.

And now I sitting in a bed in a real house owned by Liz's Mom's friend Jill and her partner Richard. We have used this house as a jumping off point for the local tourist attractions, just to give them a chance. A few days ago in down town Santa Fe, which is 97% artists shops (also known as "galleries," but really, they're stores), Liz and I walked into the Spanish Market, where there was a stage set up for musical acts. We caught most of a Latin pop/rock act where the singer/guitarist had basically his entire family as guests. They weren't half bad either. For his last act, he said, "my last guest has just gotten back from a tour in China. He's an up and coming musician, just amazing, blah blah blah, sweeping the ocean. . . Please welcome . . . Esteban!"

I don't know if you've ever been flipping channels and seen an infomercial where a full-bodied man wearing all black is playing a classical guitar, Flamenco style, and has fingernails on his right hand that would make a voguing drag queen ashamed. If you've seen this, then you know who Esteban is. I didn't think he was real until a few days ago, but now I believe.

Esteban is about 6'2". He wears all black and a flat brimmed hat with a band of silver dots going around it. He has a barrel chest, skinny legs, and biceps that used to be big but are not aging gracefully. His voice recalls Johnny Cash's singing voice: deep, rich, ballsy. When he talks, he talks about himself, and says things like, "OKAY, I'm gonna get goin' in a few minutes here, and I'm gonna tear you up!" or, "My band's gonna be ready in a few minutes and we're gonna destroy you. But first, I'm gonna play this love song, do a solo song here, it's an arrangement of one of the greatest love songs ever written, it's called Besame Mucho." Only he doesn't say, "Besame Mucho," he says, "Bess amay moocho," without any hint of Spanish inflection. With a name like Esteban, you'd expect that Esteban would have some Spanish in him. Nope, he's from Pittsburgh, and he announces this freely along with his life story as a guitarist, which is as believable as his voice. Apparently he pestered Andres Segovia ("Maestro") with anonymous notes until confronting him and being accepted into the Master level classes at Segovia's school in Spain. Then he got hit by a drunk driver and couldn't use his left hand. After ten years and losing sight in one eye, he's back. Oh yes, he's back, and with more covers of old pop tunes than ever, done up in twiddling guitar intros that last 5 minutes. He has his family as a band, too. One of his daughters is a fine violinist who has also mastered dancing while playing. Only, when she dances, she moves her upper body on an axis that is not connected to her legs, which Newton's laws say should be holding her upright. It's a strange sight, especially as she's the only one wearing a tight Flamenco dress.

Apart from that, it's been driving around this gigantic old quarry that is New Mexico. Actually it's been formed mostly by volcanic activity that took place a million years ago, covering the area in up to 1,000 feet of ash that then compressed into rock and worn away to form high desert plateaus and low, blankety green valleys edged by red and ochre cliff faces.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, we head north and west yet again. You'd think that with this much northing and westing we'd have hit Alaska by now, if not the West Coast, but this is a big place full of uncertain destiny. When shall I write again? From where? Who knows?

Best of all your worlds,

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