December 23, 2013 Paint the Town
As they prepare to take a little time off for the Christmas holiday, the editors and graphic designers at New Mexico Magazine are rushing to get the March issue off to the printers. My Mosquero "Paint the Town" feature was moved up after originally having been scheduled for the July issue.
As always, the editors had me make some last-minute follow-up calls to assure that all of our information is up to date. I'd spent a couple days in Mosquero in June, interviewing many people and photographing the wonderful murals that have been painted throughout the village by students led by their teacher Donna Hazen and artist-in-residence Doug Quarles, who has done similar mural work in Tucumcari.
Having lived for 13 years in Des Moines, NM, a village of similar size, I'm so impressed with what Mosquero has been able to accomplish! I first spotted the new look as I passed through town last spring on my way home from work for the magazine in Clovis, Portales, and Lea County--those two features will be in the February issue, due out January 15--and the pictures I took and sent to the magazine editor quickly landed Mosquero its own feature. That'll arrive around February 15 and, as always, I'll enjoy the anticipation of seeing how it looks. It's going to get Mosquero a lot of visitors--one of whom will be me when I return in April as a one-day artist-in-residence, working with some of the very students who have been painting the town.
December 7, 2013 Shootout at the Corral is OK
We love our guns.
It's built into us, we Americans. By the time my dad, Jack Keller, photographed me here with my twin six-guns at age 2, I'd already sat riveted through countless black and white "Westerns" -- cowboy movies in which our heroes' horses and cowboy hats were less iconic than their guns. And their gun play. Play with guns, not play guns...although mine were both at this point.
John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Gary Cooper, James Stewart, Randolph Scott, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, James Arness, Steve McQueen, Richard Boone, Clint Eastwood...names that define the word icon because they're ingrained in our origin stories, our mythology, our culture, our blood and bone. The myths are so saturated in our national identity that the guns themselves are conflated with patriotism.
Guns were a family affair in our house. Here my mom--the shadow--photographs my dad, me, and my brother Terry shooting at targets. (See us 47 years later.) We drove up Pacific Coast Highway to the first canyon north of the Ventura County line, turned east a mile and spent an enjoyable couple of hours with a picnic lunch and lots of paper targets. I had my own .22 caliber rifle and remember carrying that, or more often a 12-gauge shotgun, on hunting trips with my dad and grandpa, George Keller. Mostly I shot rabbits and birds. My dad bought a lifetime membership in the NRA, which turned out to be a great buy because he's still alive and still a member. He and my brother have the family garage set up with gear for reloading cartridges. In the far corner, a six-foot gun safe is bolted inside to the concrete slab below.
My path diverged early, at 17, as off I went into the world, rarely to turn back. Settled in rural New Mexico, I'm again surrounded by gun culture. I long ago lost my interest in guns; if I was to hunt now, I'd favor an old bow. Today's guns are less related to cowboys than to war. War is even more closely associated with patriotism than guns are. We love our guns and our wars.
Guns weren't a political issue when I was young. Gun lovers now fiercely guard their unlimited right to have unlimited firearms with high-capacity clips to allow long bursts of gunfire without reloading, and then the reloading takes seconds. (Deer haven't changed.) Long gone are John Wayne and Gary Cooper, replaced perhaps by Arnold Swarzennegger and Sylvester Stallone, whose characters impress me as mere cartoons but whose artillery has replaced the six-shooter. I wore twin Fanner 50s when I was a boy, and killed many a bad guy. I could shoot 12 bullets without reloading. That's twelve times more gunfire than the writers of the Constitution imagined. Nowadays, instead of shooting them down we can mow them down. Icons change. Guns change. Not so much our laws. Call me old-fashioned. Strap a pair of Fanner 50s around my 2-year-old waist, or even halfway down to my knees.
November 30, 2013 Gettin' Out of Dodge
I graduated from Cal State Northridge in early June, 1972, with no idea what to do or be. I continued working at College Records, but after my co-worker Steve was gunned down and killed there in a robbery, I was ready to leave town. The draft and Viet Nam were knocking. I saved what I could and by August took off northbound, my brother Terry along at first as we zigzagged between the Highway 1 coastline and the inland Sierras and Cascades. We camped outside or in my 1960 VW van, in which I'd built my own camper interior complete with pull-out bed, stove, ice box, curtains, and lots of storage space. My Yamaha FG-180 steel string guitar joined my Kelty backpack and stacks of books as critical luggage. (My reading that trip included the entire Old Testament and New Testament, read from front to back. It still didn't make me a Christian.) I carried a fishing pole and used it, but otherwise I became a vegetarian on this trip. I had no clue how to be a vegetarian, and my little savings could go to either gasoline or food, so in six weeks my weight dropped from 165 to 128.
Terry and I lasted together three weeks. We'd turned inland at Coos Bay. I caught a trout on the MacKenzie River in the Cascades east of Eugene before we drove down craggy volcanic slopes to the big plain of eastern Oregon. Terry took these pictures of me the night before he boarded a small plane at Bend, Oregon, for the return trip home to LA. We're camped on open land east of Redmond, Oregon. The next morning I dropped Terry off and continued north, crossing into Canada at Sumas, Washington, then heading east and north across the Canadian Rockies as far as Banff, Jasper, and Edmonton before turning back via Glacier National Monument in Montana and across Idaho and Nevada. Long lonely trip. But great hiking, camping, and soul searching. It had a lot to do with making me who I became. I kept playing the guitar, and reading books, and eventually found my way to Sonoma County, California, then West Virginia, then Texas, then New Mexico, taking the path less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.
November 21, 2013 Skateboarding's First Wave
Here's the only photo I know of that shows me surfing -- State Beach at Santa Monica Canyon circa 1965. Click that glassy left beachbreak to slide straight into "Skateboarding's First Wave -- A Palisades Story," published today in the Palisadian-Post in Pacific Palisades, California.
Skateboarding was born in the Palisades between 1962 and 1965, developing from "scooters" with metal shoe-skate wheels to big-business commercial enterprises that sponsored their own skateboard teams. Alongside the Makaha and Hobie skateboard teams, there was the Palisades Skateboard Team. (Before any of them, there was Sunset Skateboarders; see Peter Burg's history immediately below mine, and my October 3 blog post for more on that.)
Ownership change and resulting upheavals at the Post resulted in a ten-week delay in publication of my history of the first days of skateboarding. I'm excited to finally get the story out. By the time I graduated in 1968 from Palisades High School (at left; click to enlarge), it appeared that skateboarding had died, a passing fad. Wrong. From the Z-Boys in nearby Ocean Park to Tony Hawk and onward, skateboarding has grown. My own high school students in Raton, New Mexico, are avid skateboarders today, a half century after the sport's birth in Pacific Palisades. It's an interesting story.
November 10, 2013 Walking Up Near the Clouds, Town Version
Yesterday I shared a new iPhone photo taken on a hike atop Bartlett Mesa, immediately north of Raton. Here's another iPhone hiking photo, taken today immediately west of Raton and perhaps five miles from yesterday's picture. Climax Canyon Nature Trail is entirely within Raton's city limits, 3.33 miles up and down the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. The town of Raton, New Mexico, is visible at the center of the photo. (Click to enlarge.)
It's a little paradise around here!
November 9, 2013 Walking Up Near the Clouds
The top of Bartlett Mesa stands 1500 feet above our house, two miles by wing and four by twisting dirt road that has deteriorated badly in the 14 months we've lived here, a real tire killer. It's worth the drive and the risk to the tires, reaching the top and hiking across the top, 8200 feet elevation, to the east rim that stands directly above Sugarite Canyon State Park's Soda Pocket Campground.
Since moving to Raton, I've been hiking mostly through the mountainous woods of Sugarite Canyon or Raton's own Climax Canyon Nature Trail. Hiking across Bartlett Mesa reminds me how much I love hiking on open prairie, a habit developed in 13 years of hiking in every direction from our home in Des Moines, New Mexico, prior to our move to Raton. High elevation prairie hikes feel a little like walking across an ocean, with views forever and winds always pushing in one direction or another. Mesa tops are the best, up in the clouds above the fray.
November 3, 2013 For the Love of Raton
The Facebook page We Love Raton New Mexico posted a link at week's end to my Raton Gallery. In the next two days, the gallery was viewed by 290 distinct readers, a total of 616 viewings. 283 viewers entered my site at that page directly from the Facebook page, which is managed by the Raton Chamber of Commerce in Raton's Visitor Information Center. Viewers those two days came from 14 countries and 34 U.S. states. It's not possible to see specifically where the Raton Gallery visitors came from, but a look at the Facebook page suggests that those who love Raton are scattered far and wide.
After years of trial and tribulation, the Raton Chamber now finds itself with a great go-getter leadership team and a full-time tourism coordinator--my wife, Christina Boyce. There's lots of exciting activity. One example: my photo of Raton's Historic First Street (left) will grace the cover of the 2014 The Local Pages phone book for Raton, Clayton, and surrounding areas, the result of a Raton Chamber referral. Other businesses throughout Raton are benefiting from the efforts of the new Raton Chamber leadership team. It's a good time to be in Raton, New Mexico.
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