Category Archives: New Mexico

Bless Me, Ultima

During my trip to New Mexico last weekend, I wandered over to Santa Rosa to see the public art installation honoring local author Rudolfo Anaya of Bless Me, Ultima fame. I was aware of the park and the statue of Anaya himself, but last Sunday was the first time I’d noticed the bronze plates embedded in the walkway around the fountain. Each one contains a handwritten quotation from Bless Me, Ultima, which you really must read if you haven’t already.

Here are a few images from the park:


The Anaya statue.


Instagram of the tablet in his hand. The text reads: “Love life, and if despair enters your heart, look for me in the evenings when the wind is gentle and the owls sing in the hills. I shall be with you.” When I die, I don’t want a funeral. I want to be cremated, and I want somebody to stand on Tucumcari Mountain and read this passage to whoever needs to hear it before turning my finely powdered butt loose to ride the New Mexico wind.


Instagram of one of the bronze plates. This one says: “It is because good is always stronger than evil, always remember that, Antonio. The smallest bit of good can stand against all the power of evil in the world and it will emerge triumphant.” At some point in the not-too-distant future, we should probably discuss the metaphysics of that statement.


And this one: “‘Bless me, Ultima–‘ Her hand touched my forehead and her last words were, ‘I bless you in the name of all that is good and strong and beautiful, Antonio. Always have the strength to live.”

I like how the words sort of depend on the dust from the llano to make them legible. I don’t know whether that was intentional, but it really fits, given the importance of setting in Anaya’s work.


I left my heart in Tucumcari


I’ve waited 11 years for this shot. I got it this morning. The snow was probably gone by the time I got to Amarillo, but it was perfect while it lasted — wet, fluffy, and just deep enough to be photogenic without impeding travel.

Here are some of the visual highlights from my weekend trip to New Mexico:


This is the Tucumcari Motel. It’s on old U.S. 54, a few blocks north of the Mother Road. It’s a pretty cool old building.


Here are the motel cabins. I’m a sucker for little adobe buildings….




More shots of the Swallow in the snow this morning. I can think of only once in my entire life when I have been more excited to have a camera in my hand. If every day started like this, I could get the hang of mornings.


Love the fog over Tucumcari Mountain.




A few scenes along Route 66 between Tucumcari and San Jon.



I’ve always loved this old property on the outskirts of San Jon.


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You know I can’t resist any excuse to shoot the Western Motel in San Jon.


While I was getting this shot of the Bent Door in Adrian, a very good-looking firefighter saw my hazard lights on and pulled up to make sure I was OK. Cute Texas firefighter, if you’re reading this, thank you for watching over the travelers when they get to your stretch of 66. You’re one of the reasons Route 66 remains the greatest road trip in America.

I intend to ring in 2013 with a cup of Red Zinger, some ’60s folk on vinyl, and a few hours of work on the novel.

Hope your New Year’s Eve is good, wherever you are.


Belated Tucumcari report

Yeah, yeah, I know, my trip was two weeks ago, and I’m just now getting around to posting pictures. I’ve been busy — work, belt test, deadlines, more deadlines, hive inspection, meetings, personal training, volunteer work, writing, etc., etc., etc.

Anyway, here are the visuals, minus the ones I took with my cell phone and posted to Instagram. If you want to see those, you’ll have to click here to see my account. But here are my Rebel shots, such as they are:

I did something I’ve never done before: I spent a night at the San Jon Motel. I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, but if you’re a Route 66 enthusiast, you probably ought to do it at least once. San Jon is a strange place at night.

Like I could resist this shot. You know I will never get done photographing this sign. Not if I live to be a thousand.

I was delighted to see the buildings across the street looking prosperous, with all sorts of little businesses in them.

Here’s one of the businesses across from the Swallow. I like the lights in the windows. Also: I shot this at an eighth of a second. Without a tripod. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

As usual, I had a hard time thinking of a good reason to come home. I swear, if it weren’t for Ron and my animals, I would just vanish into the high desert one night and never return. I’d just disappear, living off the land, wandering back to Illinois to visit family now and then, and surfacing along 66 at random times, painting murals and selling photographs and just generally living like Bob Waldmire.

I keep trying to convince Ron that this is a viable retirement plan. So far, he’s not having any of it, but he said no the first 3,784 times I told him we needed a cat, too, so you never know….



For various and sundry reasons both practical and metaphysical, I am in the process of performing an informal cost-benefit analysis on my day-to-day activities and prioritizing them accordingly.

This basically means I intend to spend more time blogging and reading Tony Hillerman novels (shhhh … don’t tell Ron, but I think I’m secretly in love with Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police) and less time playing Angry Birds and Facebooking about overpriced decaf.

I doubt I’ll blog every day — I’m not sure I can swing it, and daily blogging tends to produce a lot of useless filler — but I do intend to post more regularly than I have in the past few months, and I hope what I post will be worth the bandwidth it takes to load the page.

With that in mind, here’s another photo from our recent trip to New Mexico. I think photos from New Mexico are always worth the bandwidth. 🙂

Remember that novel I was working on last year? I finished the first draft in February and am now in the process of rewriting it. One of my goals on this trip was to soak up inspiration for that project. I got more than I bargained for when life imitated art: One scene in my novel has the narrator, Sierra, sitting in the lobby of an old motel on Route 66 in New Mexico, watching a thunderstorm blow in — so you can imagine my delight when I found myself standing in front of the long-shuttered Western Motel in San Jon, watching a storm blow in and realizing that every single detail was exactly as I’d described it in the novel.

Suffice it to say that “finish second draft” moved from the bottom of my to-do list to a spot near the top, right under planning next week’s lessons and cleaning the bathroom (which is starting to resemble a Superfund site). If all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to rewrite a few chapters Monday night, as the IronPigs’ playoff series against Columbus doesn’t start until Tuesday.


Let there be light

Instead of posting all of them at once, I’m going to post my photos from our trip to New Mexico in batches. This is the neon batch:

There is nothing like the Blue Swallow after a rain. The light is amazing.

Neon reflections at Circa, the new coffeehouse at the Route 66 Motel in Tucumcari.

Raindrops catch the light after a rare desert rain.

Do you recognize this sign?

This one has been dimmed for many years.

No paint left; just rust and a few broken tubes.

I liked the color and the light.

Highlight of the trip: Lining up a fabulous historic preservation project for next summer. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details just yet, except to note that I am now shopping for a gym and possibly a personal trainer to whip myself into shape for this one, because it’s going to be the most physically demanding project I’ve been involved in since the Texas Old Route 66 Association cleaned out the Triangle Motel five years ago.


Back to school

Once again, I find myself apologizing for my silence. School started last Monday. I had a good week, but it didn’t leave much time for blogging, as I had commitments to attend to every evening and most of the weekend.

The fact that I am still conscious at this point may have something to do with the fact that I can see a soft blue light shining at the end of the tunnel.

My kids are watching Field of Dreams in class. Daydreaming New Mexico, I understand Moonlight Graham’s line: “Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again.”

If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the hot, dry wind stirring the high desert air, twisting my hair into a mass of careless tangles, whispering peace and the land’s ancient incantations into my ear as I rest on an old metal lawn chair, drawing strength and inspiration from the eerie songs of distant coyotes and the familiar hum of neon transformers, storing New Mexico in dreams like mental Mason jars to open and devour when life becomes too complicated and I need the scents of pinon and sage and green chile and magic to drift through my mind like tumbleweeds and send my spirit soaring through a cobalt sky somewhere above a timeworn alignment of Route 66 in the land of Baca and Anaya and Hillerman.