April 25, 2010 Raton Stars Try Arsenic...and Shine
This weekend's Shuler Theater community theater production of Arsenic and Old Lace featured acting performances from a host of Raton's well-known personalities, some of whom have not been seen on stage in many years.
The greatest revelation was Bill Donati, aka Billy D of KRTN radio, who played Dr. Einstein, left and below, the drunken fake German, fake doctor.
My review and photographs will run this week in The Chronicle-News. I single out Bill for his wonderful expressions. I've known him for years and had no idea he could do so many things with his face! Most Ratonians never even see his face: it's his voice that is familiar to all, over KRTN (1, 2).
The other most noteworthy VIP making a rare stage appearance was Shuler Theater impresario Bill Fegan -- at 83, he's virtually a Raton landmark.
Bill moved into the Shuler Theater with his Kaleidoscope Players in 1963 and has been there almost continuously ever since, but it's been 22 years since he last appeared on its stage as an actor. Here, on the left, he plays Mr. Gibbs, about to sample the poisoned elderberry wine of the nutty Brewster sisters. (Click photos to enlarge.)
Both Bills did a great job on stage this weekend: here's hoping we don't have to wait so long for return engagements.
April 21, 2010 Are You Man Enough for Raton?
New Mexico Magazine's current travel feature on Raton is titled "Man-cation" and suggests that Raton is such a manly destination that women should perhaps stay home.
It's one of the articles from the magazine that is also available on their website; of the three photos accompanying the magazine article, they've chosen my photo of three cowboys for the web page, where I appreciate that they've prominently displayed the photographer credit.
The article and web page are stirring up a lot of bemused chatter in Raton, especially among the female half of the population. My wife sent me a Facebook page that was several screens long, Raton gals bantering about this man-centric feature on their town. I could hear the laughter in their lines.
I didn't write the article, but the popular magazine honored me by selecting my photograph. I get my first shot at an article in the magazine next month when my Shuler Theater featurette is published, accompanied by three more of my photos. If there's any laughter for that one, I hope it doesn't make Facebook.
April 17, 2010 How Magazines Teach Patience
I finally learned this week why my Ride To Pride feature has not moved into line and into print at Western Horseman Magazine. I submitted the piece on New Year's Day. Editor A.J. Mangum was long in getting back to me, but when he did, he said he liked the feature and would schedule it for publication. It didn't happen.
Western Horseman had a big restructuring this winter/spring, closing the Colorado Springs offices where they've been headquartered for many decades, moving to Fort Worth and reshuffling staff. A.J. will remain in Colorado Springs as an "editor-at-large".
Fortunately, my article has now landed in the hands of Ross Hecox, whom I credit with "discovering" me and launching my career in both writing and photography. A good writer and great photographer, Ross first read my Ride To Pride piece late this week. He liked it, responding to me, "You can count on it appearing in Western Horseman Magazine." He's tentatively scheduled it for the August issue, out in mid-July, pending an editorial meeting next Thursday.
That was a relief -- to both me and the good people at Ride To Pride in Las Vegas, New Mexico. We'll be looking with excitement to mid-summer.
April 10, 2010 When It's Not One Thing, It's Another
I've been on spring break all week; our first spring weather arrived right on cue. I finally got some lettuce and spinach into the ground where for months there had been only snow.
I heard from RANGE Magazine yesterday that my Mary Lou Kern feature (right) was pulled from their upcoming summer issue at the last minute -- space issues, I assume -- and it's now going into the fall issue, which will reach readers in August. Alas.
The day before, Fabian West, the talented and friendly art director at New Mexico Magazine, sent me a pdf copy of page 11 of that magazine's June issue -- my featurette on Raton's 95-year-old Shuler Theater. It looks great! (They included three of my photos, including this one.) It'll reach readers at this time next month. But no sooner had I sent a copy to Bill Fegan at the Shuler than I heard back from the magazine: they'd made a mistake in sending it, please do not share it with anyone else. Oops. (So Bill and I have it under wraps. But based on seeing it, he's ordered 50 copies of the magazine to sell from the Shuler.)
I traded Barbara Riley some photographs of her lovely Heart's Desire Inn B&B in Raton (my next New Mexico Magazine feature), for her website and other promotions, in exchange for a 2-night stay for me and the missus. We were there Wednesday when The Chronicle-News published my magazine-length (and quality, I think) feature on Inge & Tom Bobek. I've been fielding compliments on it ever since. I hope you'll read it. Page 1 Page 2
Today I'm taking my hike up the mountain early so I can be back to set up for an afternoon portrait shoot of Laekyn Reust, using my portable studio with backdrop and light stands in the West Gallery of Studio C. Since investing in a charcoal backdrop months ago, this will be the first thorough use it's gotten. It's an area of photography in which I look forward to developing my skills, beginning today.
April 4, 2010 Where the Deer & the Antelope Play
I had a great time with my friends Inge & Tom Bobek on the Spahn Bison Ranch yesterday afternoon. This morning I wrote a 1300-word article for The Chronicle-News on the Bobeks' immigration situation -- watch for the article and photos this week.
Everything about their life is American as could be -- but they drink German beer! I told them that if they drank Budweiser, I'd have an easier time convincing people of their worthiness for American citizenship! We laughed.
As they loaded a half-ton bison bull on another rancher's trailer, the bull exploding through a chute and into the trailer, I thought that stepping in front of the animal would be like standing in front of a runaway pickup truck. The chances of survival would be the same.
The sun was about to touch the mountaintop a mile to the west as a dozen free bison ambled across the draw. It was sweet. I pulled away as Inge and Tom walked back up the hill to their log home. I hope we'll be allowed to remain neighbors and friends for the rest of our lives.
April 3, 2010 To Be An American
Tom Bobek and his wife Inge came from Germany a decade ago to manage the Spahn & Friends Bison Ranch in nearby Trinchera Canyon, barely below the Colorado border. The owners are another German couple, Christian and Sonja Spahn, who come for three extended stays each year but otherwise remain in Germany.
If Tom and Inge had worked for an American, they would have reached their goal of American citizenship by now. Though nothing could be more American than running a bison operation far down a remote canyon dirt road on the Colorado-New Mexico border, it currently looks like Tom and Inge may have to move back to Germany when their current work permit expires.
Christina and I have long bought our meat from the Spahn Ranch. Inge is active in our community and is one of Christina's best-selling artists at Studio C. Every July, Tom and Inge spend a week in their pre-1840 American trapper gear and lodgings at the Santa Fe Trail Mountain Man Rendezvous in York Canyon west of Raton.
They're working with our U.S. Congressman Ben Lujan and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (how American is that!) to try to remain and be allowed to earn their American citizenship. I'm going out there this afternoon to photograph and report their story for The Chronicle-News. I can't imagine a better way to spend a sunny spring afternoon.
March 28, 2010 Strike Up the Band
The Raton High School Concert Band won the highest available ratings at district competition in Los Alamos last week, returning them to state competition where they won third place last year. Their prospects look great. I like the photo I took for my Chronicle-News article: not only is no face blocked by another, but all the young musicians look so happy! As they should.
I feel fortunate to live in a state with two great U.S. senators. Our freshman senator, Tom Udall, is the son of the legendary Stewart Udall (who died last weekend, at the age of 90). Tom Udall keeps a dozen field representatives on the road full-time, covering the entire state of New Mexico. Anna Rael-DeLay came to Des Moines this week. I couldn't cover it for the Chronicle because I was teaching in Raton, but Christina agreed to take her camera and my questions. From her notes, I was able to write an article that made the front page (1, 2), and Christina was excited to get her first published photo credit. It was a collaboration we look forward to repeating.
March 20, 2010 Nests in the Wind
Maybe it's the blizzard raging outside, yet again. Or the sheer accumulation of snowstorms we've had this year, making me hanker to get out and walk miles across these hills, dogs feeling the same as they race ahead in hopes of the big score, a rabbit to chase. Spring begins today; the highway is shut in by whiteout.
At least as much, though, it's two books I've been reading, both loaned to me by Tom Pryor. Us Nesters in the Land of Enchantment was compiled by Mrs. N.H. (Cora) Click in the late 1960s and published in 1980 as a very limited edition of photocopied 8 1/2" x 11" pages, almost 200 of them. One hundred years ago, peaking from 1906-1914, Des Moines, New Mexico, was a busy railroad stop where hundreds of families arrived, many from Texas, to stake homestead claims throughout the area.
Jeannie Jones and others have told me that there were 2-4 homes every mile, in every direction, with a schoolhouse every 3-4 miles. I believed them, but in all my extensive hiking around the region, I found it hard to imagine: you have to be very alert and know what to look for or you can't find a trace. Mrs. Click asked all the old-timers to type their recollections of those first years here, when most of them were children, then she collected their stories, in alphabetical order by author. I find the accounts riveting.
So Tom loaned me a copy of Eight Decades in New Mexico by his friend Jim Irwin, who's still around to talk about it. Jim lives in Albuquerque now, but Christina is planning to bring him to Des Moines this summer for a reading at Live at Studio C from his memoir about life throughout much of the past century in nearby Grenville. In both books, I enjoy reading detailed accounts of how the settlers, or nesters, built dugouts and modest houses, created tiny schools for their kids, how they got water, how they survived on this empty land. Many of the tales are humorous, and most are mesmerizing.
I'm planning to read highlights of Mrs. Click's book at each Live at Studio C this season (March to November, the last Saturday). Since we bought 620 acres of gorgeous mountainous land eight years ago, most of my hiking has been done there or on Sierra Grande, immediately behind Des Moines. This year I've got a jones to go back to climbing fences and hiking hither and yon through all the sprawling old homestead lands, imagining the burgeoning community that grew here from the turn of the last century until the Dust Bowl and Great Depression brought home the lesson that this is not farming country. With an eye of an anthropologist, and another of a detective, all the old homesteads are still out there -- dreams, and remnants of lives, gone back to earth.
March 14, 2010 A Dawning Awareness
Of the many activities I enjoy, it's becoming increasingly apparent that writing is climbing toward the top of the list. I've always enjoyed writing but never done enough of it to get hooked.
From the start, I've placed an asterisk by the Chronicle-News stories that gave me particular pleasure to write (though occasionally the asterisk was more for the photographs than the writing), but three recent pieces were particularly satisfying. All three were about the theater, and two were reviews. (Mallorie Salazar profile, The Brothers Grimm Spectaculation review, Cabaret review 1, 2.)
That may be a coincidence, as might the fact that all three are accompanied by photos that I particularly like. I didn't know I could write reviews; now I feel like I've got the bug. It's a good bug.
Writing is storytelling. Along with a lot of craft, the building material is words; I've always loved words, and their use. Now I find myself happiest when I have something engaging to write, and I feel a little aimless and discontented when I don't. My thoughts have turned to strategies for always having a writing task at hand. We'll see where that leads...
March 13, 2010 Measuring the Goalposts
Last week (March 6, below) I wrote of the challenge I felt in trying to meet New Mexico Magazine's prescription for my Hi Lo Country featurette. I had just reworked it for them, but it was longer than they'd specified.
All week, I awaited word from the associate editor when, instead, I received a contract yesterday from the business office for all three featurettes I'd developed for them. Joining my Shuler Theater featurette will be another on Heart's Desire Inn B&B in Raton and the Hi Lo Country travelogue. The Shuler is running in the June issue; the other two will appear later.
When I created this website at the end of 2008, I had some goals; one was to have my work published in New Mexico Magazine. Sometimes it has seemed like a long wait, but eighteen months later, I'll realize that goal.
March 10, 2010 When Everything Works
I'm enjoying my photographs and review (available here) of the Raton Youth Theater's production of The Grimm Brothers Spectaculathon, which truly was spectacular. I wrote about the rehearsals last week and enjoyed that article, too.
I'm going to review a touring production of Cabaret (1, 2) at the Shuler Theater Friday night; I'm awaiting word on whether the New York producers will allow me to take photographs.
For now, I'm snowed in at home: I drove two miles west this morning but turned around: nothing but whiteness, blowing snow and threatening whiteout conditions. Given the forecast and conditions, I suspect my school will release early today, and that by then the highway between there and my house will be closed.
Ever wonder how many people are here reading along with you? So do I, so I look up the site statistics once in a while. In October, 10 months after launching, the site first reached a daily average of 100 visitors; by last week it had grown to 150 daily visitors. I'm humbled: I thank you for coming by.
March 6, 2010 Writing with Scissors
I got good news, and more work, from New Mexico Magazine this week. They like my Shuler Theater featurette just as it is and will run it in their June issue. They ordered up three minor adjustments to the Heart's Desire Inn featurette and I'm hoping they'll run that in July.
The Hi Lo Country travelogue is a tougher nut to crack. The magazine wants me to flesh out the story with many of the details I excised to pare it down to their specified 300 words. They said I can go a little over 300 words, but essentially I have to cut some elements in order to add others. Already the story's been like writing haiku, making each word carry its weight.
I've spent a good deal of time this morning crafting the words and the story. I'll wait until tomorrow, but it looks like I'll be sending a revision of a little over 400 words. If they return it for further paring, they'll need to tell me what to cut. And then its back to the scissors.
Want to see January/February?
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