All posts by redforkhippie

Raised by hippies. Aging and proud of it.

Dr. Kavanaugh

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here.

Dr. Kavanaugh
Aug. 20, 2018 ~ Coldwater Public School, Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan watched quietly from the bleachers as Dr. Scherer got up to welcome everybody to Coldwater Public Schools. The annual districtwide assembly and back-to-school pep rally was a longstanding tradition. Morgan had never been fond of it — as often as not, she’d have a headache that day, and all the stomping and clapping and cheering made it worse — but she didn’t normally dread it the way she had this year’s. Even if Dr. Scherer was nice enough not to mention Morgan by name, he was sure to mention her father, and everybody would turn to stare at her. People always stared at her when someone mentioned Daddy’s name, and she never knew how to respond. It made her uncomfortable. Today would be worse, because they’d probably be watching to see how she was going to react to Daddy’s replacement.

She could have come up to the school this summer to meet her father’s successor, but as a fourth-grader, she didn’t expect to have much trek with the woman, and she couldn’t think of a good reason to pay her a visit. If Morgan had just gotten a new job because somebody died, she didn’t think she’d like it very much if that person’s daughter showed up at her office for no apparent reason. It would feel too much like being judged. Morgan had decided to spare herself and the new principal that awkwardness. Today, she wondered whether that had been a mistake. Meeting ahead of time might have made today a little less weird. Continue reading Dr. Kavanaugh

More breezeblocks

Ron and I went hunting breezeblocks again this afternoon. My list now stands at 86 properties with either breezeblocks, shadow blocks, or a combination of the two. I have found 51 examples of hidden circles; seven examples of Empress; six of square-in-square; five of double-Y; two of double-X; one each of arch/cathedral and snowflake; assorted squares and rectangles; and a handful of mystery styles, including a couple of Empress variants I haven’t been able to identify. I also spotted at least nine examples of shadow blocks in varying patterns — and we still haven’t inventoried the mid-century subdivisions in the southwest quadrant.

The featured photo at the top of this post is one I shot in December of the front of my church — a gorgeous A-frame with a snowflake-pattern breezeblock wall out front. Here are a couple more views, showing that stunning backlit cross:

A-frame church with backlit neon cross and breezeblock wall
I love this architecture.
Backlit neon cross against a breezeblock wall
This is the most mid-century church I’ve seen since Benjamin interrupted Elaine’s wedding in “The Graduate.”

First Presbyterian doesn’t have the market cornered on ecclesiastical breezeblocks, though. Immanuel Baptist Church makes nice use of hidden circles here:

Church with hidden-circle breezeblock screen on one end
This screen really dresses up the building.

We also found quite a few commercial installations:

Square-in-square breezeblocks on a Plains Commercial building
I can’t decide whether retrofitting an early-20th-century Plains Commercial building with mid-century breezeblocks is awesome or awful, but either way, it’s eye-catching.
Closeup of star-patterned breezeblocks
At first glance, I thought this was the large diamond/Bali/Rotary pattern, but it’s much too angular for that.
Large square-in-square breezeblocks with vertical rectangles in between
Square-in-square blocks at the Elks Lodge. Note the darker vertical rectangles in between.

Motel designers were especially fond of breezeblocks:

Square breezeblock wall
I like the alternating large and small squares in this wall at the old Town House Motel.
Closeup of square breezeblocks in two sizes
Shadow blocks on wall
Shadow blocks at Motel Safari.
Small square breezeblocks in wall with Elvis and a classic car painted on it
Carport wall at Motel Safari.
Decorative breezeblock wall with googie boomerangs painted on one end
Patio at Motel Safari. Dig those boomerangs.
Decorative hidden-circle breezeblock wall
A hidden-circle wall at Roadrunner Lodge.

And last but not least, here’s a pretty residential application:

Square-in-square breezeblock wall
I need a wall like this in my backyard to keep Ramona out of the garden.

It was at this point in the trip that I turned to Ron and said, “If he’d build it out of breezeblocks, I might have to rethink my position on Trump’s ‘big, beautiful wall.'” And then I had an idea for the greatest political compromise in the history of ever … but that’s another post for another day.


Back to School

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here.

Back to School
Aug. 20, 2018 ~ Tumbleweed Motel, Coldwater, N.M.

Morgan’s head throbbed dully as she rolled over and shut off the alarm on her phone. Her sinuses ached, and her throat burned. So much for starting the new school year on a good note.

As if there are any good notes left, she thought, wincing as she sat up. All the good notes died with Daddy.

She shoved her feet into a pair of dollar-store clogs she’d bought at the beginning of summer. They didn’t exactly fit, but they were less uncomfortable than anything else she owned at the moment. Grabbing the clothes she’d laid out the night before — underwear, jeans, and one of Daddy’s old T-shirts — she schlepped into the bathroom to get ready for school. Continue reading Back to School

Shooting the Breeze

One of the delightful surprises about moving out here in 2017 was the discovery that Tucumcari has a plethora of breezeblock walls.

A few weeks ago, I decided it would be cool to spend part of my summer taking an inventory of Tucumcari’s breezeblocks and creating a Bob Waldmire-style map detailing the style and location of each. I figured it might help promote Tucumcari to mid-century modern junkies like me, and it seemed like the sort of thing Route 66 travelers would appreciate, given our fondness for all things retro.

With most of New Mexico shut down until further notice, Ron and I decided to take advantage of a free afternoon to start the inventory. After lunch, I got online, researched breezeblock styles, and made myself a little chart identifying all the patterns I could find. Then Ron spent about three hours systematically driving down every street on the north side of town while I rode shotgun with my iPhone and a notebook in hand. By the time we called it a day, we had a list of 40 properties, featuring 15 different styles of breezeblocks.

Here are a few highlights:

"Hidden circle"-style breezeblock wall
This example of “hidden circle”-style breezeblocks is about the only structurally sound remnant of our vet’s old building, which burned several years ago.

Hidden circles were extremely popular. I counted 25 examples today.

Concrete wall with empress and arch-style breezeblock details
Empress-style blocks dominate the foreground, but if you look closely at the wall on the left, you can see arch — a.k.a. cathedral — blocks as well.

The Empress pattern looks similar to hidden circles, but you can tell them apart by looking at the diamonds between the circles: Hidden circles have a horizontal line bisecting the diamonds.

Concrete-block wall with double-X breezeblock accents
This mostly solid wall features occasional double-X — a.k.a. “Dos Equis” — accents.

I found a couple of examples of the double-X style, which some sources identify by its Spanish name, Dos Equis.

Square-in-square, or "Vista Vue," breezeblock in a concrete wall
I found three examples of the square-in-square style.

The square-in-square style was identified by a couple of sources as “Vista Vue.”

Breezeblock wall using what appears to be a variant of the Empress pattern
These blocks appear to be a variation on Empress.

I haven’t been able to track down the name or manufacturer of the breezeblocks screening the stairwells at Roadrunner Lodge (above). I’m also at a loss to identify the rectangular pattern on the blocks at the Pow Wow Inn (top image).

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the south side of town, including a mid-century subdivision that’s positively teeming with breezeblocks.


Apis Mellifera

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here.

Apis Mellifera
July 5, 2018 ~ Sangre Mesa

Morgan sat with her arms wrapped around her knees and her back against the side of the beehive, her hair tucked up under her ballcap to prevent any accidents. Before she’d learned to protect the bees — and herself — they’d had a few misunderstandings, with overly curious workers getting caught in her curls. The trapped bees would panic and sting, disemboweling themselves and leaving Morgan’s face swollen and tender for days afterward. After the third time it happened, she’d remembered to cover her hair when she came to visit.

These visits were therapeutic. The bees didn’t care what she was. They didn’t judge her. They didn’t fear her. They just went about their business, and she told them things, and they kept her secrets.
Today, she wasn’t sharing secrets so much as she was venting. Continue reading Apis Mellifera

Telling the Bees

NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here.

Telling the Bees
March 16, 2018 ~ Sangre Mesa

Morgan wasn’t technically the bees’ new keeper — she’d helped Daddy with them enough times to be comfortable handling the smoker, prying off the inner hive cover, pulling frames out, and brushing the bees away so she could inspect the comb — but he was the one who’d set up the hive before she was old enough to understand what was going on, and it seemed only decent to adhere to tradition and let them know what had happened. They were a link to her father, and she wasn’t about to risk losing them by shirking her sad duty.

Brushing away a tear, she set down her bag and extracted a large sheet of black fabric. Working quickly in the predawn shadows, she draped it over the hive and set a paving stone on top to keep the wind from blowing it away. Sinking to her knees, she pressed her forehead against the outside of the wooden broodchamber and spoke softly; a stranger could have been forgiven for thinking she was praying to the colony. Continue reading Telling the Bees

Folk Thursday: The Fallow Way

It’s been a bit since I posted anything for Folk Thursday. With a little more time on my hands than usual, this seems as good a time as any to do it.

In “The Fallow Way,” Judy Collins’ lyrics speak to the value of stillness and solitude — two commodities many of us have in abundance at the moment.

I found myself thinking of this song Tuesday as I was standing in the lobby of the Roadrunner Lodge, minding the desk while the owner was busy with a teleconference. Here in Tucumcari, the winter is quiet, but this time of year, we start to see the snowbirds stopping in on their way east from Arizona, and the first few tourists begin wandering up and down Tucumcari Boulevard, cameras in hand. Every spring, I look forward to watching Route 66 come back to life, a bright blossom with petals made of neon and chrome. Continue reading Folk Thursday: The Fallow Way