Thursday, October 11, 2012

Skipping Across The North Valley

There was another mass ascension of balloons Thursday morning, and many of them swept across the North Valley at low altitudes. Picture time!

Road crew pursues the balloons. Quite an international crew here (I saw one vehicle waving the Union Jack).

Almost looks like Godzilla is marauding south along the Rio Grande River!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Visits To Friends And Relatives

On Wednesday, Symphony Talk with friends: Cats, Cats, Cats Talk with relatives.

On Thursday, big dinner at sister Marra's. Started watching debate, but situation much too volatile, so watched something more sensible - Mel Gibson in "Mad Max".

Locked The Keys In The Trunk

Today was marred when I accidentally locked the keys in the trunk of the rent-a-car, and discovered that the 2011 Nissan Versa basic sedan does not have a trunk release lever and that there is no access through the back seat. If the rent-a-car clerk hadn't slipped me the key code, the $75.00 fee would have been $135.00.

Bicycle Ride To Tingley Beach

Pleasant trip along the Rio Grande River with Bruce Warren, to feed the Canadian Geese at Tingley Beach. Flawless, except when a bolt loosened on his tire, and he had to stop to fix it, and he accidentally squatted in a sticker bush, and I had to pull stickers off his ass. But other than that, perfect!

And the Canadian Geese approved too!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Have Some Hantavirus Nuts!

On Monday, I went to the Hi-Lo Market and bought a Zip-Lock bag of piñon nuts for nine dollars. I couldn't resist nibbling on them on the way back home!

When I brought them to my sister, she was adamant about washing them first. "It was in the paper," she explained. "The nut gatherers don't pick the piñons off the pine cones one-by-one. Instead, they raid the large caches that mice assemble in their ground burrows near the trees. It makes it easier to gather nuts that way. But since so many mice have hantavirus these days, and since the mice pee in their burrows, they highly recommend washing the piñons first.

We washed the hantavirus nuts, and noted how clean they already seemed to be. Then, we roasted them the traditional way (15 minutes in the oven @ 350 deg F; stirring frequently). Delightfully fragrant, and delicious, traditional Southwestern fare!

Monday, October 08, 2012

On The "Breaking Bad" Location Hunt

On Monday, I started Downtown, angled west towards Old Town, but then went into the extreme Northeast Heights to lunch with Bruce. We ate at Taco Sal's.

Monday's ABQ mystery was over near Lydia's House, in the morning. The windows were smashed out of a parked sedan, and for good measure, a large boulder was wedged in the left rear window. Someone must have really lost their temper! My first thought was 'I didn't know Jesse knew where Lydia lived!'

The most amusing thing was attempting to confirm that two small apartments behind Garcia's Restaurant were indeed the ones used on BrBa. I parked in front of the apartments and watched as the Hispanic folks who appeared to live in the apartments gathered to work on car repair. One woman in particular, seemed to be the leader. She emerged from one apartment, and with her piercings and tattoos, she looked pretty intimidating. Together, her, her familia, and their friends, all looked pretty formidable.

I approached them and asked if it was OK to photograph these apartments. The lady was gruff, and said: "No. You'll have to ask the owner, at Garcia's Restaurant, for permission." Then I explained I was a tourist from California and how Garcia's Restaurant had been featured on 'Breaking Bad.' They smiled, and said they were already familiar with that. The lady asked what part of California I was from, and I said Sacramento. She explained she had lived in San Jose until recently, so we had northern California in common. I explained further that these two casitas, in addition to Garcia's, were also featured on 'Breaking Bad.' You could tell from her shocked grin that she did not know this, and that it tickled her that she was living in a famous apartment. We started laughing together, and she said: "Look, I'm going to look away, and I don't know nothin'." And so, I got a photo!

On Tuesday, I headed NW, then went south along the west side. I spent time in the South Valley, then headed up to Four Hills for sunset.

I talked to the folks at Grandma's Music, where they sell musical instruments. I asked them what their connection to Breaking Bad is, and the fellow explained that Cinematographer Michael Slovis is also an acoustic guitarist. They said BrBa ordered Vamonos Pest Control's big, custom-made rolling instrument cases through their auspices, and they also put together Jesse Pinkman's fancy stereo system. I said that system looks fake, and they said no, it is a perfectly-functional system. Who knew?

The most amusing thing was heading to Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, and trying to gain entry to take photos (I eventually secured permission from the principal to take only exterior shots). I talked to and Admin Assistant, and two student Admin Assistants.

During discussion about 'Breaking Bad' I exclaimed that 'Breaking Bad' is the best TV show that has ever been aired. She said that I was, sad to say, incorrect. 'Charmed' is the best TV show that has ever been aired. Since each of us had never seen the other's fave show, we couldn't resolve the imbroglio. All this time, I've been working under the assumption that Hank is Walt's nemesis on 'Breaking Bad,' but in reality, Shannen Doherty is.

I headed over to the Isleta Rail Runner station and walked a distance to the I-25 overpass over the railroad (to study the graffiti), and beyond, in order to get a better view of the Cal-Maine property (formerly Gus Fring's Chicken Ranch). I was surprised by the Railrunner - fortunately I wasn't on the tracks at the time. I also saw the Amtrak train that followed.

I was frustrated in my efforts to get to the Declan meeting place, and the Sunset location - The Pavilion had closed Bobby Foster Road. Increasingly, that area is hard to gain access to. People with keys control that vast space. Outsiders are forced to walk!

So, it was off to Vamanos Pest Control for some photos. I also attempted to get to the 'Crystal Blue Persuasion' Four Hills Sunset place before the sun set. That effort was largely unsuccessful. I was out of gas, out of sun, and in the wrong place. Alas!

Wednesday was more about bicycling with Bruce Warren and visiting friends and relatives than Breaking Bad, but Bruce and I did go to eat at The Grove Cafe & Market. After the bike ride, we looked a little too desperate to be yuppies, but we gave it a go anyway. Bruce ordered a Farmer's Salad, and I ordered the Croque Monsieur. What a great sandwich! What good food!

We visited a few other sites too. As Bruce perused fabric from an Ecuadorian street vendor, I photographed parking garages.

On Thursday, my last day in Albuquerque, I drove north. I stopped several times to photograph beautiful balloons that had just been launched, many of which were quite low. I drove past Santa Fe to Spur Ranch Road, and the train trestle there. Talked to a local on a walk and learned some fun facts about the BrBa shoot. Then drove to Lamy, toured their cemetery and history museum, and ate lunch at the Legal Tender Restaurant there.

Drove down Highways 285 & 41, past a movie set in action, to Highway 14, then through Madrid. Took a very bumpy dirt road (Highway 22?) to I-25, then further to Santo Domingo Pueblo. When I realized the road from Santo Domingo to San Felipe was also dirt, I reversed course to I-25 again, then drove down to the San Felipe exit instead.

I took El Camino Real from San Felipe Pueblo to the south side of Algodones, to the south side of the E-W ditch that cuts across the valley, and leads one close to the Rio Grande. I then hiked over to Mike's Last Stand - where Mike crosses the River Styx in BrBa. This is a lower stress path than the one followed recently by UBBFT.

Then I drove down to the NM 550 bridge over the Rio Grande, and discovered to my surprise that it was NOT the one used, where Hank throws away Tuco's grill. After that, I drove to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and made a mad dash through the gate and past the warning signs, in order to reach the power line on Santa Ana land. Interesting place - drove past what I call the Stone Monster, and saw a rattlesnake cross the road. At the stables, however I was ordered to retreat. After that, I got lost in Rio Rancho trying to improve my photograph collection, and stopped briefly in Corrales to survey the Romero Fire scar.


America's Challenge

On the return from Bernalillo, in the sunset gloaming, we were fortunate to see all five contestants for the America's Challenge, hanging low over the Rio Grande Valley just after launch. These were long-distance hydrogen balloons. The goal was to travel as far as possible (last year's winner landed at the ND/Canadian border). Most years see a dozen challengers: because of the recent rise in the price of hydrogen, and the fact that it's mostly a European sport, this year there were only five. Unlike the hot air balloons, they are happy to launch just before sunset, and here they were, hanging low over Alameda and Sandia Pueblo.

Met With Ira And Went To Bernalillo For Michelle's Birthday Dinner

Shortly after noon, I went to Ira's Family's house. Ira had flown in from Vegas for the weekend. Both he and his mother were quite tired - they had awakened at 2:30 a.m. and attended the dawn Mass Ascension of the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Ira had enough energy to come with me to Blake's Hamburgers: Ira's mom went to take a nap with the cats.

Ira and I had a swell visit.

On return to Ira's Family's house, his mother awakened, pronounced the day a total loss, and retired with the cats for more sleep. I left, and Ira sacked out too.

In the evening, Ken, Marra, Richard, Michelle and I went to Bernalillo to the Range Cafe for Michelle's Birthday Dinner. A good time was had by all!

Los Poblanos Open Space

Left: Flock of Sandhill Cranes.

After working on Michelle's rows at Los Poblanos Community Garden, which is at the NW corner of the Los Poblanos Open Space, we decided to drive around the SE side and take a walk.

We met Minor Morgan (who graces the cover of July/August 2007 'Back Home' magazine). We saw the Corn Maze. We also finally saw the distant Sandhill Cranes, and the nearer Canadian Geese.

Sandhill Cranes live their lives as pairs.

Easier to get closer to the Canadian Geese.

Los Poblanos Community Garden

Community Farming in the Land of Enchantment!

On Sunday morning, Michelle wanted to work on the row she's rented, and the row she adopted, at Los Poblanos Community Garden. I accompanied her.

Michelle prepared the rows for mowing, moved some plants, and watered others.

Michelle works on her rows as the Johnson Grass encroaches from the edges.

Johnson Grass is a pretty, non-native grass (it's from California) that works real well for erosion control, but is the bane of NM farmers, because it's very difficult to uproot.

There were quite a few Canadian Geese nearby, who flew over us while we worked and as hot air balloons floated by. We could hear Sandhill Cranes behind the surrounding stand of Johnson Grass, but we couldn't see them.

Fugue State

Left: Looking through the windows at parallel contrails at Las Vegas' Mccarran International Airport.

The last night before the trip to NM was pretty grueling. I didn't sleep well Thursday night, then had a busy Friday. Friday evening, I ran the spotlight for "City of Angels", then spent the hours afterwards packing and doing errands. I caught the Airport Shuttle at 4 a.m., for the 6 a.m. flight to Las Vegas. So, no sleep that night.

The trip to Vegas, and the subsequent trip to Albuquerque, passed in a haze. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't even remember who I sat next to on the trip to Vegas, and barely remember my seatmates to Albuquerque. I was in a kind of fugue state.

The first task upon arrival in ABQ was to secure luggage and get a picture of a BrBa site that happens to be at the airport. Then, off to the car rental.

When you are really, really tired, it's time for a hike. So, I immediately drove off south, to the Pavilion parking lot, then hiked over to a hilltop looming over Tijeras Arroyo, which I believed also doubled as a BrBa site. "The heat was hot, and the air was dry."

I reached the wrong hilltop, and so had additional hiking to reach the correct hilltop. The NM desert was unexpectedly beautiful!

I finally departed the area after about two hours of fugue state hiking, in order to meet my sister Michelle at the 4th/Solar Blake's Restaurant. We returned to her place, and, unexpectedly, I fell asleep.

And napped, and napped, and napped!

In the evening, we headed into the Heights to see my nephew Aaron, and his Whippet, Blizzard. Such a cute dog! We ended up at Chili's and discussed the job market in all its many manifestations.