Err, not really, I'm quite happy being a soft city dweller, but this site does have a definite Southwestern theme. Almost everything on this site relates to the West, most (if not all) of it to the Southwest. This first shot I took in Cerillos, New Mexico, of the horses somebody had tied up in his front yard - about as thematically Western an image as one could hope to find from this era.

Giddyup! (Household, Cerillos, New Mexico, taken in early December). Don't bother clicking on this, I've just set it as a link so that I could control the bordercolor, and make the edges of the photo a little sharper

That's why we travel, right? Little moments like that which leave one with no doubt as to just how far home is from where one is right then. Most often, as in the case of the Western photography and Tex-mex-free cooking section currently under construction, the experiences were thoroughly pleasant, which is why this site has the theme it does.

In the few visits I've taken so far, I've found the Southwest to be a refuge from a suffocatingly corporate dominated and homogenized 21st century, a place of endless surprise and delight. Not counting the single disastrous trip mentioned elsewhere, I've been there twice, once to Arizona and once to New Mexico, and plan to return many, many more times. The Southwest is the one region of the US I've been to where the Native culture is still very much a going concern, not just alive but showing signs of staying that way in the long run, and the individual characters of the communities aren't being submerged under a tidal wave of inoffensive, politically correct, corporate approved blandness. Part of the reason why, I suspect, is something that might not sound like a blessing, but really has been from some points of view: the relative commercial worthlessness of much of the land. One doesn't see mile after endless mile of well watered, rich black topsoil the way one does in the Midwest. Even inside the city limits of Albuquerque itself, one can find large amount of land that looks like it hasn't been touched by anybody, ever. Some of this land I found by taking a hike right outside of the hotel parking lot, the first day Dad and I were there.

(Ah! Here we see the mysterious contoured skies of New Mexico, though some would say it's an artifact of the image compression process ...)

Along the Turqoise Trail, just past Golden on the way back to Albuquerque. I guess that you could click on this if you'd like to straighten the photo.

Why would that be a blessing? Because land which hasn't had its price bidded up through the stratosphere is land on which one can build on and be left alone to be oneself, and that allows for a level of individuality that is difficult to pursue in more congested places like Chicago where, any day now, I expect to see a bunch of my neighbors drop down and start grazing in the middle of Grant Park, so used they have become to letting themselves be herded without protest. A basic part of what it means to be human is being lost in the process, and with it, the very capacity to be even slightly creative.

To give you a taste of what the more easterly urban experience is getting to be like, I might mention what happened when, for example, I tried to get a cooking SIG ("special interest group") going in my local chapter of MENSA. Somebody called up, and in seeming sincerity asked "so, you'll be going to different restaurants, and sampling the cooking at each?". No, I said, we'll be staying home and preparing our own dinners. "So, you'll be ordering takeout?" No, I insisted, we'll be doing our own cooking, using our own recipes - and he just couldn't get it. Did I mention that this is supposed to be a high IQ organization? Barely stifling the urge to yell "retest" into the receiver and hang up, I tried to explain the concept of creative cooking to somebody who couldn't even seem to conceptualize the notion of cooking one's own dinner. I think that you can guess how far I got. What our very orderly, very corporate local culture has done is beat the spark of individual initiative out of its people. They go where they're told, think what they're told, and expect direction at every waking moment, and demand that others to do the same as well, and then mistake the stifling reality that results with freedom.

(Next, we see some of the wildlife at Bandelier National Monument. So, what do you think - would she go better with a red sauce or a green one? "Mother! Mother!" "Your mother's the lunch special at Don Juan's now, little Bambi!" And then the scene could have shifted to the happy diners digging in with a little fiesta music in the background ... yeah, that would have been a much better ending.)

Bandelier National Monument. A female mule deer, I believe, a few minutes before her 'date' showed up, and some of our fellow visitors found themselves very glad that they had settled for using their telephoto lens for taking those closeup shots.

Creativity is not going to come out of such ingrained passivity, and that is part of why I like the Southwest. Somebody might take a look at the Albuquerque museum and say, "Joseph, you come from a city where you can go down to the Art Institute, and see Monets, Rembrandts, and the works of any other of the great masters - where's the thrill in going to a small museum where nobody has ever heard of any of the artists whose work hangs there". But Monet and Rembrandt never walked down Michigan Boulevard, you can be sure. What you see in the Art Institute isn't what our people created, any more than that takeout our friend from Mensa wanted us to order would have been our cooking. What you see in that museum is what was created by the inspiration of other cultures, and is here only because some of our local rich people had enough money to be able to buy it. Period. What you see in the Albuquerque museum is the work of local artists, and if you like it, you'll be glad to know it's still being made. There's a gallery of more recent works just around the corner, and work of comparable quality is still being made locally. Chicago can not make a similar claim, and hasn't been able to for some time.

That's the difference between the places we're used to and places like New Mexico: in Chicago, culture is something we preserve in what is always a losing fight. Go there now, and you can see what little remains of its much vaunted architectural heritage falling to the wrecking ball, one piece after another, more often than not because some very small person wanted to throw his weight around - but the notion that a new piece might be created isn't even up for consideration, unless one wishes to play make-believe and pretend that a featureless glass box is "architecture" in the same sense that the work of Louis Sullivan was architecture. But in the Southwest, the culture is still alive, something to be spoken of in the present tense, not just something to be preserved but to be looked forward to as well, and to witness something like that, I think, is an experience well worth the trip, even if you do have to pay for your own air fare.

Keep in Touch

If you enjoyed your visit to my site, and I hope you did, you might want to sign up for my homelist, which I've ever so humbly named after myself. That's where I announce any updates I make to my websites, and I think that you'll find that subscribing to that is a lot less time consuming than periodically checking back to see if I've gotten around to doing anything. Yes, sorry about any frustration on that score, but we do all have lives offline, and those come first. Yes, I am going to get back to work on these pages this fall.

In response to what I expect will be a concern, yes, one of the topics covered on those sites is unpleasant behavior, mostly online; I'm guessing that most of you would not be looking forward to reading a lot of e-mail about that. Well, you won't be. I keep those pages online mainly because they serve as a necessary standing rebuttal to rumors spread by certain people who don't want to let go of past hostilities. That much having been said, I've more than learned my lesson. The kinds of places I used to get into those virtual scraps are places I just don't go any more, because experience has taught me that toughing it out doesn't make sense - things just don't get better in the end. How to put this? If you keep pounding your head into a brick wall long enough, odds are very good that sooner or later you'll understand that the wall is not what is going to give way.

The unhappy stuff is past tense. What you're going to be hearing about most is what I am going to be doing online the most - photography and recipes. Just recently, I did set up a photographic walking tour of a picturesque neighborhood on the near north side of Chicago, and it's up and ready to be viewed, thumbnails and all. Here, in the next few weeks you should see recipes for - what else - red and green chili sauce, and yes, I promise that you'll be seeing a tomato free version of the former. These are what I'm going to be announcing, and if those sound like the kind of things that you might enjoy looking through then please, by all means, sign up. I hope you'll enjoy what's coming.

There are a few companion pages linked to from my Google profile. Not much to see there - yet - but update notification is available for those blogs and pages, and for this site as well, and you can find it over there. If you're done looking at all of that, would you care to join the countless multitudes who have signed my guestbook? Somebody? Anybody? Rough crowd.

Return to Your Ring

Nothing more to see on this site, so you might as well return to your ring, if you came here from one. Where did you first enter my sites?