Words & photos © Tim Keller


Sept 16, 2018    "We drink milk. We eat steak. We lace gloves."

Rawlings Big-T Trap-Eze baseball glove

I remember asking my dad, in our living room at 666 Palmera Avenue in Pacific Palisades, above the beach in northwest Los Angeles County, if I could play baseball. I was eight and the Dodgers had moved to LA from Brooklyn the previous year, 1958. I remember crying when I asked: To this day, I'm still moved to tears by some of life's bigger events.

Tim Keller, PT Shaver Beavers, Pacific Palisades Little League 1959 Pronto Market Titans, Pacific Palisades Junior Baseball League, 1964

Of course Dad said yes, but he also ended up becoming my little league coach for the next six years. That's me at ten, in 1961, on the Beavers, sponsored by PT Shaver Water Heaters. In 1965 we were the Titans, sponsored by Pronto Market: That's me slouching toward my dad in the back row right. My mom became our teams' official scorekeeper. She developed, before the invention of Hamburger Helper, a casserole of ground beef, corn, noodles and cheese that we called "Baseball Casserole" because it's what was for dinner when we all arrived home late after every weeknight game for those six years.

Rawlings Big T Trap-Eze baseball glove c1950Rawlings Big T Trap-Eze baseball glove c1950

I only ever had one baseball glove; I still have it. My dad bought it for me secondhand in 1959. The previous owner had written on it in ink, "Tom Jennings EX-55055," the Santa Monica phone exchange, and my dad used a wood-burning tool to etch "TIM KELLER GL43452," the Pacific Palisades phone exchange. (EX stood for Exbrook; GL stood for Gladstone; both prefixes were later abandoned in favor of their numerical equivalents, so our number became 454-3452, kept until just a few years ago.) That's my glove above, with the 70-year-old lacings eaten away by mice. When I started playing catch recently with my friend Peter Burg, I Google-searched baseball glove relacing, which led me to send my glove off to Massachusetts for relacing.

Rawlings Big T Trap-Eze baseball glove c1950, restored by Apollo Glove Repair Rawlings Big T Trap-Eze baseball glove c1950, restored by Apollo Glove Repair

Here's what it looks like after restoration by Apollo Glove Repair, whose motto is "We drink milk. We eat steak. We lace gloves." They were excited by my glove, saying that it's rare for them to see such an old glove in such good condition. They posted the top set of before-and-after photos to their Instagram account (where it has almost 1400 "likes") with the left photos showing what it looked like completely unlaced. It turns out that Apollo does all the Major League Baseball players' gloves.

Coors Field, Dodgers vs. Rockies 2018 Dodgers vs. Rockies at Coors Field, Justin Turner swinging, Manny Machado on deck, Sept 2018

I stopped following Major League Baseball when I went off to college; it was the late 1960s. We'd attended countless dozens of games at Dodger Stadium, while the Dodgers won three World Series. I grew up watching Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills (including 1962 when he stole 104 bases), Wes Parker, Norm Larker, and the rest; I even remember seeing older stars Gil Hodges and Duke Snyder--a Dodger dynasty. I grew up to the voice of Vin Scully. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I attended some Dodger minor league AA games in San Antonio, and since returning to New Mexico in 1999 I've enjoyed some AAA Albuquerque Isotopes (originally Dukes) games, first as a Dodger franchise and more recently the 'Topes became the Colorado Rockies' AAA franchise. I enjoyed the Raton Osos, a semi-pro team that lasted two years here, and Raton High School's varsity baseball team, but no major league games since my teens.

Sandy Koufax in action

Last year, the Dodgers caught my attention when they made it to game 7 of the World Series (losing to the Houston Astros). This year, in my retirement, I subscribed to MLB-TV and I've been following the Dodgers, including all ten games in person against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, where last weekend I took the two iPhone 7 photos above--that's Justin Turner swinging while Manny Machado watches from the on-deck circle, from my great seat next to the Dodger dugout (Kemp, Kershaw, and Hill were sitting just to my lower left at the time).

I've just read two great books about 1960s Dodger baseball: The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2016) by Michael Leahy and Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy (2002) by Jane Leavy. That's Koufax in action above, probably the greatest pitcher ever. The Dodgers have a right-handed pitcher this year, 24-year-old Walker Buehler, with the prospect of becoming that good. And at this moment, at least, they're in first place, but nip and tuck...with the Colorado Rockies. I'm having great fun being a baseball fan again after fifty years mostly away.




September 1, 2018    Raton Pass

Amtrak Southwest Chief entering Raton Pass

I waited atop Raton's north overpass this week as Amtrak's Southwest Chief left town and entered Raton Pass for its climb to the Colorado border and down to Trinidad before continuing its daily Los Angeles to Chicago journey. On board the train were my wife Christina Boyce, her mother Helen Boyce, and their friend Elizabeth West.

Boarding Amtrak Southwest Chief at Lamy, NM Elizabeth West and Helen Boyce enjoy the ride on Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Santa Fe (Lamy) to Trinidad, Colorado

Helen and Elizabeth boarded the train at Lamy, near their homes in Santa Fe, and were joined in Raton by Christina. Elizabeth's talented daughter Melanie West, a fine professional photographer, snapped a picture of Elizabeth and Helen getting on their train at Lamy. About three hours later, Christina photographed them in their seats, around the time I shot the top photo from the bridge as they left Raton.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief enters Raton Pass Amtrak's Southwest Chief descends into Colorado just below the summit of Raton Pass

This was what I call a Wild Women date, a joyride over the mountain by three friends aged 84 (Helen), 73 (Elizabeth), and 55 (Christina). My part was to drop Christina off at the Raton depot, where she'd rendezvous on the train with Helen and Elizabeth, then to drive over the pass to pick up the intrepid trio at the Trinidad depot. From there we'd all go out to dinner in Trinidad before driving back over the pass to home, where Christina and I would host Helen and Elizabeth for a couple days until they returned to Santa Fe, again on the Southwest Chief.

I added to the fun by photographing the train along its route north. Above, left, the train enters Raton Pass, climbing toward the tunnel at the top. (Click any image to enlarge it.) At right, the train descends high atop the Colorado side. Here, the gals said they were delighted to be looking out the window and suddenly see me outside photographing them.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief pulls into the depot at Trinidad, Colorado

From there I raced them down to Trinidad, arriving just in time to frame up a shot and photograph the train's arrival. Christina's little 23-mile joyride cost her $23, a dollar a mile--such a deal! And the ride's even better, and much cheaper, from Lamy, near Santa Fe, and back: $79 round trip to Trinidad with the return from Raton. That's only 20 cents a mile for the 400-mile round trip. Beginning in 1975 when it was still called the Super Chief, I've ridden this train many times on various sections between Chicago and Los Angeles. The span between Lamy and Trinidad is the best of all. (Western New Mexico near Gallup comes in second place.)

Elizabeth West, Christina Boyce, and Helen Boyce arrive at Trinidad, Colorado, via Amtrak's Southwest Chief

Kudos to these adventurous friends for hitting the wide open American road together, for what Christina calls an artist's date, when plenty of women were sitting home in front of their TVs and smart phones and Facebook accounts. All three of these gals have lived for decades down the rough and tumble Turquoise Trail south of Santa Fe. It's an inspiring expanse of land, and a railroad runs through it.




August 25, 2018    Homegrown

Green chile roasted

Late summer is chile season throughout New Mexico. We usually buy three or four bushels of roasted green chile around Labor Day each year, and I supplement that with my own small crop from the garden. This year's garden crop was so prolific and grand that I'm going to plant a lot more next year. For the first time ever, we may not need to buy chiles next summer.

Homegrown New Mexico chiles by Tim Keller, 2018

This year's home crop included bell peppers, Big Jim chiles, Anaheim chiles, and Fresno chiles, shown here from left to right. As I roasted them in the Weber grill on our deck, I documented the process with my new Fujifilm X-T2 mirrorless camera. In larger quantities, chiles are usually roasted in a big turning drum by multiple propane-fueled flames. At home, I use the grill. I had so many chiles this year that it took more than an hour to roast them all. Next year I'll take my crop to someone's roasting drum and ask them to roast them for me all at once.

New Mexico green chileNew Mexico green chile roasting on the grill
New Mexico green chile roasting on the grillGreen chile, roasted and freezer bagged

My crop this week produced two full freezer bags of roasted green chiles. We typically go through a dozen bags per year, using green chile in all foods Mexican, plus omelettes, potatoes, burgers, pizza, and much more. This year I had three plants each of Big Jim and Anaheim--the "green chile"--so next year I'll hope to fit into the garden perhaps eight plants of each. I'll have to take some space away from zinnias and tomatoes, both of which produce more than we need, with Christina taking the surplus to the farmers market (see August 1 below).

Mezcal margaritas underway

I was a professional singer-songwriter for 12 years, giving that up when we moved back to far rural northeastern New Mexico, the Hi Lo Country, in 1999. For years I pondered my status as an artist: Was I, or was I not, an artist? Ultimately I answered myself with my 2007 memoir, Ameripass: Aimless in America. And then I took up photography and feature writing, pursuing them professionally for eight years until my relatively recent "semi-retirement." During the interim, I recognized that my cooking, and growing my annual garden, was indeed art. Art is creation, making things, creating. My songs and music, my photography, and my magazine and newspaper features all fit neatly as art. But so does much in life, and especially gardening and cooking. Or even something as simple as making a mezcal margarita for a shared evening happy hour on the deck with my gal. Day after day, it's art-filled life, and life is good.




August 19, 2018    Fresh from the Oven

Tim's multi-grain power bread

Just now out of the oven, these multi-grain loaves are my own recipe developed over two years from what was originally my cousin Merriall's honey wheatberry bread. Merriall got me started baking a long time ago, decades. When teaching, I needed a bread I could toast that would get me through five hours of morning classes. I started adding to Merriall's recipe. It grew so big that Merriall's two rectangular loaves eventually became four round loaves. Ingredients include whole wheat flour, rolled oats, cracked wheat, wheatberries, a wild-rice mix, cornmeal, wheat germ, flax seeds, sesame seeds, honey, and skim milk. I've typed the recipe on two pages so I can print them front and back on a 3x5 card. The card says "Tim's Dark Peasant Bread" but over the years the title has morphed into simply "Tim's Power Bread." Toast and butter it, it's amazing. I can hike six miles over high mountains and it's the only food I need until dinner. Good stuff.




August 1, 2018    Bountiful

Christina Boyce harvesting flowers from garden, 2018

As much as we love to travel, we make a point to stay close to home all summer to enjoy the work and the bounty of tending our gardens and lush yards, this year with a solar fountain beside our hammock hanging between two towering elm trees. While the rest of the country--east, west, north, south--swelters in alarming heat, we've been lucky to have plenty of rain and cool temperatures, with daytime highs in the 80s and overnight lows in the 50s. With our windows open all night (and day), this morning's temperature inside the house was 60; tonight's overnight low outside is forecast to be 47. Each year, typically in September, we get a couple or few afternoons and evenings when we might wish for an air conditioner, but our 6800-foot elevation generally keeps summer temperatures pretty idyllic, and with a little luck like this year's, we get plenty of summer rain to keep everything lush and beautiful.

Christina Boyce in her garden, 2018 Christina Boyce in her flower garden, 2018

August brings peak flower season, from now through October, and Christina's been harvesting bouquets almost daily, placing flowers in each room of the house and refreshing them regularly with new cuttings. She gets crazy-creative, finding beauty everywhere: some of this week's bouquets include tall fronds of deep-red lettuce leaves. She especially enjoys taking flower bouquets and baskets of vegetables to Raton Farmers Market on Saturdays, where she visits with her many friends, shares our bounty, and donates the proceeds to the farmers market itself.

In our 32nd year together, she's certainly the greatest bounty in my life, year-round and year after year, and today is her birthday, number 55. Happy birthday, love!




Coming Later

Coming Later - Taos, Tim Keller Photography

In the morning, Andy walked down the drive from his grandparents' two-bedroom house on the big ranch and snagged a ride within minutes, Ortega Highway good for that. By early afternoon he and his red Kelty backpack had progressed west to San Juan Capistrano, south on the 5 to San Diego, and east on the 8 all the way to El Centro where it was hot, already into the 90s, even now in the early spring.

He was new to hitchhiking and yet to learn that freeway onramps were not his thing. He'd once tried hitchhiking home five miles from junior high school just to be cool but three things happened that turned him, until now, from hitchhiking: his school bus passed him, his friends beating him home; it rained; and his mother happened to drive by and picked him up in the rain, sending him to his room when they got home until his father could deal with him after work.

At two o'clock, Andy propped his backpack on its side and started using it as a backrest. He'd been at the eastbound onramp along El Centro's east side for thirty minutes and standing with his thumb out didn't seem any more productive than sitting with his thumb out. The idea was to make it all the way to northern New Mexico where young people from all over the country had been migrating and gathering in communes and the like. Working on the ranch and camping at Joshua Tree had taught him to love the desert. New Mexico might be just right.

By three, this was getting old. It had taken him only seven rides and five hours to cross the entire congested bottom of California to El Centro. Now that he'd reached the edge, nobody would pick him up. In fact, not many cars were heading east. Nothing but desert all the way to Phoenix. Either way, whether it was something about Andy or something about the land, he was still there at four-thirty, now back to standing, three hours at the same spot. A hundred cars and trucks had accelerated up the onramp, every one of them passing him by.

This was when Andy learned to "go with the flow," later embracing a Rilke quote, "Life is right in any case." Almost despondent, he walked under the interstate and across the street to the westbound onramp, not sure what he would do but sticking out his thumb to give it a try. The first car picked him up. He made it back to his grandparents' before they'd even gone to bed that night, tail tucked between his legs but secretly damned happy to be there.

He'd get to northern New Mexico but he was coming later. By then he'd be driving his own car.


Sketch fiction, July 28, 2018



July 24, 2018    San Marcos

Casita de Milagos, Airbnb, San Marcos, Texas

Our welcome at Casita de Milagros was one for the ages. We'd driven two full days from home in New Mexico, 750 miles, and it was good to arrive back in my onetime hometown along the eastern edge of the Texas Hill Country. As we neared the end of West San Antonio Street eight blocks out from the downtown courthouse square, in the historic district of beautifully maintained houses under high arching trees, we turned onto a side street and into the driveway of the Airbnb guesthouse that we'd booked. We knew immediately that we'd found the right place as we pulled into the driveway pictured above. Pretty sweet.

Friends at Blue Dahlia Bistro, San Marcos TX

Our hosts Diane and Carl Furry promptly emerged from the back yard to further welcome us. Then they gave us our privacy and quiet for our four-day stay, but we'd liked them so much that we asked them to join us for a happy hour on our (their) patio. That was last September. (I blogged here about that trip.) We returned last month for another stay and by now it was clear that we've become friends. We've enjoyed following each other's Instagram feeds. In June, we went out for brunch at Blue Dahlia Bistro on the courthouse square and took some fun selfies.

Christina Boyce and Diane Furry at Blue Dahlia Bistro, San Marcos TX

After two San Marcos stays within the past year, we're now planning to make it an annual visit, each April before the summer heat arrives in Texas. April is our new granddaughter Joni's birth month, so we'll hope to see her at home in Austin on or near her birthday each spring. Austin is 30 miles north of San Marcos, a quick hop on I-35. Staying down the quiet tree-shaded lanes of San Marcos, where we can walk to the small downtown for dinner, is more our speed than staying near Joni and her parents in a traffic-ridden Austin that has grown exponentially since I moved away from the area in 1984.

San Marcos River at San Marcos, Texas

I wrote below (July 9) about the vibrant music scene I enjoyed in San Marcos back then. The downtown area is anchored by Texas State University, where I earned my master's degree, and the San Marcos River literally bubbles up on the college campus via a million springs, beginning its trek toward the Gulf of Mexico, merging first with the Blanco River that comes out of the Texas Hill Country after passing my onetime home down Flite Acres Road in Wimberley. The San Marcos runs right through downtown: I took this photo (right) with my iPhone one evening from a footbridge in the city park as Christina and I enjoyed one of our many long evening walks together.

By this summer's end we'll need to ask Diane and Carl to reserve some dates for us next April at their lovely Casita de Milagros. As you can see, we're already looking forward to our next return to San Marcos.




July 16, 2018    The Grandparents Visit Austin

Tim Keller & daughter Darcy Keller with her famous Takamine D28 guitar, Austin, June 2018

Christina and I became grandparents April 20 when Joni Louise Lambo was born in Austin to my daughter Darcy Day Keller and her husband Jarrett Lambo. Joni's high-flying, world-traveling parents moved to Darcy's hometown of Austin last fall from their Brooklyn home, ready to settle down and raise a family. (Well, maybe not so much settle down: Here's a great new pic of Darcy and Joni on the NYC subway a couple days ago. This picture and the one above were taken by Jarrett, a filmmaker and great photographer.)

Christina and I took a weeklong road trip last month to meet Joni and see her new home in the Crestview neighborhood of north Austin, near our longtime favorite Austin restaurant, Fonda San Miguel. Darcy and I posed with her guitar, which my family gave to Darcy's mom as a Christmas present forty years ago. A Martin D28 copy by Takamine, my brother Terry was able to try dozens in the warehouse, a benefit of his job in a Los Angeles music store, and pick this one, which was and is pure magic. It sounds better than most Martin D28s. Darcy's mom, still in Austin all these years later, gave the guitar to Darcy a few years ago. I had not seen or played it for 34 years. I sent this picture to Terry in Asheville, NC, and he was thrilled just to see the photo and get a report on the guitar's remarkable like-new condition and amazing tone.

Joni & grandpa Tim, June 2018 Austin Joni & new grandparents Tim & Christina, Austin, June 2018

Darcy was always super close to my mother, whose name was Joan Day Keller; she was often affectionately known as JoJo. Darcy's name is Darcy Day Keller. Darcy and Jarrett chose Joni's name partly in tribute to Darcy's Nana, Joan/JoJo, drawing a circle through generations. Christina photographed me meeting Joni, above left, and Jarrett photographed me and Christina getting a little grandparent time together. (Darcy met her Nana at the same age, in California, December 1981.)

Killian & Brooke Keller at home in Buda, TX, June 2018 Tim & Christina + Killian & Brooke, Buda TX June 2018

We took a side trip to visit our nephew and niece, Killian and Brooke Keller, my brother Terry's son and Darcy's cousins, at their new home south of Austin in Buda, Texas. When I lived in San Marcos and Wimberley from 1976 to 1984, Buda had just one offramp from I-35 and was almost literally a one-horse town. I bought a custom cowboy hat (seen here and here in my early singer-songwriter promo pictures) from Manny Gammage at Texas Hatters just off the interstate in Buda. Now, the town has sprawled and has two or three high-traffic offramps. The drive from Darcy's in north Austin took three times longer than it would have back in my day. Alas.

Here at home in New Mexico, Raton has four stoplights spread over a mile of Main Street, no traffic whatsoever, and we're an equidistant 240 miles from the three closest airports--Albuquerque, Denver, and Amarillo. Our location suits us perfectly. We'll be driving to Amarillo in October to catch an American Airlines hop to Austin, via DFW, for a quick weekend visit to see in person how fast Joni is growing. Starting next summer, we'll be hoping Joni comes for an annual Raton summer camp with us. Darcy says she wants us to teach Joni to do chores and eat zucchini. We're ready.




July 9, 2018    Beacon City Band  :  Texas Summer Nights

Beacon City Band - album cover 1981Beacon City Band - album back cover, 1981Texas Summer Nights - album cover, 1983Texas Summer Nights - album back cover, 1983

When I told my brother, Terry Keller, that I'd just bought a turntable to play my collection of 1400 LP albums and convert some of them to digital files to play in my iTunes, Terry asked me for just one thing: Would I please send him the Beacon City Band music.

Terry had followed me to San Marcos, Texas, arriving shortly after my 1984 departure for Santa Fe, after eight years living in and around the Texas Hill Country college town crossed by two rivers, the Blanco and the San Marcos. Terry got to know Doug Hudson and Joey Geaccone, and like so many, he fell in love with the music of the Beacon City Band.

Beacon City Band - album back cover photo, 1981

The band recorded only one album, in 1981. The back cover photo was taken outside nearby Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas, with the extended Beacon City Bunch of friends. I'm there in my shorts and running shoes (I was running 50 miles a week that summer) beside my first wife, Susan, who's about six months pregnant with our daughter, Darcy--the baby bump is visible.

Two years later, the Beacon City Band anchored a compilation album of San Marcos singer-songwriter music called" Texas Summer Nights," produced by BCB fan Tracie Ferguson.

When I prepared a CD with the BCB music for Terry, I made a second one for my friend Kate Rosa in Truckee, California. Kate and I co-wrote "Come and Go" thirty years ago in Sonoma County, and I wrote "More" and "Waiting for the Apple Trees" for her. (All three are available here and from digital music sources including iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, and the rest.) Kate continues to sing and play in the high Sierras, and I was confident that she'd enjoy the Beacon City Band.

She loved it. She wrote and wanted to learn more. I copied the album covers and labels and wrote her a long letter with details about the Beacon City Band. I also referred her to Ameripass: Aimless in America, my online memoir that includes extensive stories of the Beacon City Band and my San Marcos days. I sent all of this to her and, eventually, to Terry. Probably manufactured in a pressing of only 500 copies, this music has mostly disappeared with little trace; that's all there is on the Web, traces. In sharing the music and recollections with Terry and Kate, and with you here, I hope somehow, someday, that this extraordinary music and these extraordinary recordings will be revived and made available for all to enjoy.

This may sound fanciful, but my features about the Palisades Skateboard Team have led to an award-winning film and avid interest in the pre-Dogtown "Skateboarding's First Wave" of the 1960s. Many dozens of the LPs in my record collection are recordings originally made on 78rpm discs in the 1920s and 1930s, long out of print and as obscure as today's Beacon City Band recordings. Collectors passed around those rare 78s, which led to the recordings being reissued on modern records and, for those bluesmen still alive, second careers. Most of those recordings are now easily available on CDs and through digital downloads. "Beacon City Band" and "Texas Summer Nights" should be, too.








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