Hillbilly or Mountain Climber?


How’s it going? Enjoying the Easter/Passover season? I sure ham, I mean am. That was actually a typo, which I will leave because it was also very clearly a Freudian slip referencing my eager anticipation of the glazed Easter ham that I will be eating on Sunday. Can we find a picture? Oh yes. The internet is awash with images of  delicious hams. Most of them are copyrighted. I guess people are very possessive about their artistic ham photography. Well not this one! Pass this one around! Print it on a t-shirt! Use it on the cover or your next novel! (Hopefully a novel about ham.)


Let’s see what else could we chat about? Our Risen Lord? Hatching Eggs? Frolicking Lambs? Bunnies Built From Chocolate? The Mass Slaughter of Egyptian Babies? OR, how about we talk about something less timely, and less inflammatory. This week I learned that the Associated Press Stylebook wants journalists to use the word “mountaineer” instead of “hillbilly.” To wit:

hillbilly Usually a derogatory term for an Appalachian backwoods or mountain person. Avoid unless in direct quotes or special context. Mountaineer is a suggested alternative.

When I read this to Dave, a rock climber himself and friend of many mountain-climbing mountaineers, he had a bit of a hissy fit. It should be noted he doesn’t really like AP style to begin with. He says “realtor” instead of “real estate agent” and “bar maid” instead of “bartender.” He doesn’t capitalize the names of horse races. Stuff like this makes the Associated Press really mad. But me, I’m all up into AP style. I LOVE it. And basically cannot get enough of it. And basically am making it my life mission to convert all of my friends into talking AP style.

Yeah, I know, I know, what about the Chicago Manual of Style?


Too thick. And hoity toity. It lacks pizazz.


Nice try, Chicago. Even Mardi Gras beads won’t help.

While we’re at it, here are some of my other favorite reference books:


For when I need to bore and or/dazzle people to tears with famous quotes from Alexander Pope.

IMG_1798For when I need to know the French word for “to extort.”


For times when I  can’t remember who made kittens and I need to look and see, OR when I forget what colors they come in OR when I can’t remember what exactly they like to do with their free time.


But I digress. Je fait une digression. Hillbillies-cum-mountaineers. As we see from dictionary.com, “mountaineer” means both mountain dweller and mountain climber. This is not just some misguided invention of the Associated Press.




1.an inhabitant of a mountainous district.

2. a climber of mountains, especially for sport.

The problem of course will be in knowing how to tell the difference between toothless, jug band yokels and intrepid George Mallory types. To that end, I invented a quiz. I call it: Mountaineer OR Mountaineer? If that’s too confusing you can think of it as Hillbilly or Mountain Climber.

Mountaineer or Mountaineer?

Part I: Who is most likely to say this phrase? A mountaineer (hillbilly) or a mountaineer (mountain climber)?

1) Hey there ole chap, could you toss me up some more rope and carabiners?
2) It’s hotter’n the devil out here in this gully what with our moonshine and jar of pickles not being too very refreshing.
3) Take a looksee at them lil beans I dropped in the waterfall, they is doin’ a funny dance.
4) I do say, we should reach summit by tomorrow.
5) It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
6) You best get off our property before my pappy come out with his gun and blow you to kingdom come.
7) Help! I’m falling off this mountain!
8) Aw shitballs, I done fell off the mountain.
Part II: Who’s in the picture? A mountaineer (hillbilly) or mountaineer (mountain climber)?



1.1:mc, 2:hb, 3:hb, 4:mc; 5:mc; 6:hb; 7:mc; 8:hb

2.1:mc; 2:mc; 3:hb; 4:mc

Did you answer hillbilly for 2.2? That’s Sir Edmund Hilary! I tricked you.
So I guess, I’d like your feedback. Did you find this quiz difficult? Easy? Challenging, yet within your grasp? How do you feel about throwing mountain dwellers and mountain “conquerers” under the same designation?
I can see where this could get dicey at times. Like if someone puts “mountaineer” on their match.com profile, it will be awkward to ask which type.
Well, anyway, Happy Easter, everyone. Here is the AP stylebook’s entry for Easter:
Easter In the computation used by the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church and by Protestant churches, it falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter is the next Sunday. Easter may fall, therefore, between March 22 and April 25 inclusive.
Did you know that Easter had to do with moon cycles? I sure as hell didn’t. Thanks Associated Press!
(Sorry about the spacing, WordPress is out to get me. Which could be a bit paranoid on my part, but I don’t know how else to explain it.)

Persian Sins and Problems In My Neighborhood

Hi there Spartanites,

Remember when we won the Peloponnesian War? It only took 27 years, but… we did it! That’s back when we were all chummy chummy with Persia.

Oh, hey, non-awkward transition, speaking of Persia, I recently learned that Louis Wilcox has christened his downstairs living room The Persian Den of Sin. Let me tell you how I learned this. The hard way. I learned it the hard way, which is my preferred method of lesson learning. That is why I’ve touched electric fences and swam breast stroke, and learned to speak French using the Grammar Translation method. Because I love the hard way! I love to walk into a Persian Den of Sin and almost get pierced in the neck with an arrow that Louis is shooting from his bedroom to his homemade archery target beside a roaring fire in the fireplace in his living room. Lesson learned!

But more on that later, when I interview Louis about Persian vice (usury, drunkeness, blaspheming Xerxes, and/or almost shooting me in the neck with an arrow), for a forthcoming blog.

Meanwhile, I have a photo essay to share. It’s called: Problems in My Neighborhood: A Photo Essay. All of these pictures were taken within two blocks of my home. I hope you enjoy it. But it would be kind of weird if you did, because you shouldn’t enjoy other people’s problems. I hope you learn from it, mostly.

Problems in My Neighborhood: A Photo Essay

Here’s a problem: There’s a lost dog. He’s been missing for almost a month and his name is Pencil. Come back Pencil!


Another problem: These residents have moved their living room/home office outside, which is not really conducive to workplace productivity or guests wanting to sit with you on your couch.


Problem: Wagon wheels have not been in use since the early 20th century.


It’s hard to tell in this picture but these are all tiny chairs. Like kid-sized. Which makes me wonder…where is the adult supervision? Are children sitting on the porch all by themselves?? That is a problem.


Problem: Somebody threw out this gum wrapper, which is littering.


But wait, take a closer look! They also threw out perfectly good gum after taking a few nibbles off the end. That seems like something a dog would do…could it have been bored and hungry Pencil?


Problem: The evidence shows that it was not Pencil, the wayward doggie; it was a human being with men’s size eight shoes.


Problem: Strange totem poles surrounding an herb garden reminds me that I should have an herb garden and I don’t.


Then again: solution. Some nice person let his rosemary bush grow through his chain link fence onto public property which means, rosemary potatoes for me!


Problem: This cat is blurry. I didn’t realize he was blurry until I went back and looked at pictures of him. Another problem: he was hiding from me under this bush when I wanted to pet him.


Problem: I think this is a rusty cement mixer in someone’s Memories-of-Industrial-Americana themed front lawn. The problem is, it’s not a very original theme in my neighborhood.


Problem: These prickly pears need to be watered.


This theatrical troupe has gone militant, which means my poetry militia needs an even bigger tank. Problem.


On that note, my poetry militia has already claimed these pretty flowers but I don’t know if the threatrical troupe knows that. Problem.


Problem: Something or someone tore an egg carton to shreds. Was it hungry and despondent Pencil? Seems like something he would do. On the other hand it appears to be cut with a scissors, which makes even less sense.


Problem: This giant magical-realistic tomato painted on the local produce market building to cover gang grafitti makes everyone in the neighborhood uncomfortable.


Problem: Instead of turning our recycled glass bottles into tinier and tinier bottles, the city is making glass mulch.


Problem: These dogs are over-dressed for the weather. Also the very presence of immovable fake dogs mocks the tragedy of lost real dog, Pencil.


Problem: It looks like someone’s having a bonfire. Yours truly has not been invited.


So there you go. Photo essay over. That is the fin of my photo essay. The first of many to come. I promise I won’t just document problems. I will also document things that are not problems. I realize that documenting problems without offering solutions is just shirking personal responsibility. It just seemed to be a theme in my neighborhood yesterday when I took a walk. And things seem kind of hopeless where Pencil is concerned, you have to admit. It has been over a month.

Until next week, Spartan Holidayers.

Lady Greensleeves


If you want to hum a very old song, hum Greensleeves. It is seriously older than Shakespeare. Some even claim that King Henry VIII had it written for Anne Boleyn. But au contraire, Greensleeves was written for a lady with green sleeves.

Anne Boleyn had some green dresses but not many, because green was a tarty color back then. It meant you were fecund–very fertile and lusty. (If your sleeves were green maybe it was because you were rolling around in the grass with a paramour.)

But not Lady Green Sleeves, as we shall call the woman for whom the song was written. Lady Green Sleeves just happened to have a green dress. It’s funny because her sleeves were the least interesting thing about her.

What was more interesting was her yellow socks.

Finches, Food Trucks & Chine Colle

I promised in my last blog that my next blog would be all about the beings and doings right here in sparkly, dirty, punchy New Mexico.


So let’s start with the beings. For the beings we use stative verbs: New Mexico is kind of square-shaped. New Mexico feels dry. New Mexico smells like pinon.

None of these verbs is active…they’re about states of being, feelings or senses. You wouldn’t use them in the progressive tense with the same meaning. (New Mexico is being kind of square-shaped. New Mexico is feeling dry.)

Grammar ambush over. The thing is: New Mexico is a prickly place, a gritty place…you have to root around for the good stuff. Which is not a bad thing; it keeps out the “destination” transplants that have smothered such otherwise fine places as southern California and the Colorado front range. It also means more rosy finches, lithographs, and food trucks for the rest of us. Yes, these are three of my favorite things happening right here at home. Let us take a gander.

Rosy Finches:

rosyfinchRosy finches come in three varities–black, gray-crowned, brown-crowned and graycapped. The French call them roselins. All three North American varities of these rare alpine birdies are found in the Sandia mountains on holiday from their Arctic homes. My friend Nessa and I found out the hard way that you have to climb the mountain to see them. By the hard way, I mean the gift shop attendant at the bottom of the tram told us. But not until we had spent a good two minutes staring steadfastly into the desert brush. Apparently, birders fly in from all over the continent to hoof it up to the Crest House where these birds are fed and, with full bellies, pose happily for pictures. Apparently they are also merchandising rosy finch t-shirts, pins and patches up there, for birders who are proud of their incredible conquest. Never mind them. The point is: Hooray for our rosy finch!

The Tamarind Institute

good in the kitchen_webimage

Remember back in the 60’s when lithographic artisan-printers were a dying breed? You’d walk into a room and say, “Can anyone here transfer this drawing I made with greasy pigment on metal plates to paper?” And it was like crickets chirping. Awwkward.

Those were the dark, demoralizing days of lithography printing. Out of that darkness emerged the Tamarind Institute in L.A. funded by the Ford Foundation, charged with the romantic mission to “save a dying art.” Within a decade, the art of lithography was not so dead after all, and the entire institute moved under the aegis of UNM to Albuquerque. That’s right, there’s all sorts of lithographers out there roaming our city streets, blending in, walking their dogs, buying butter and clementines beside us in the grocery line. They look like you and me, but they come from the 19th century and all have their own identifying symbol called “chops,” to mark their work. Pretty badass.

If you want to learn more, I could explain it to you poorly here, or you could scamper on down to the Tamarind Institute on Central and Stanford any first Friday of the month at 1:30 for their free tour. OR, if you read this in time, you should go to the reception for their Good in the Kitchen exhibit tonight from 5-7pm, where you will be treated to images of domestic bliss, comfort, captivity and terror. Muffins, buttons, dolled-up little girls, spontaenously combusting vacuum cleaners, that sort of thing. It’s a great little show. And bonus: chine collé all over.

Food Trucks (and Tap Rooms)


I think we can all agree that the food truck/tap room/neighborhood park symbiosis is one of the most exciting things to happen to Albuquerque since the Railrunner Express first meeped its little horn. Rather than going on about the brilliance of catered picnics where entire neighborhoods are drawn to dine in the park en masse, and the fun re-invention of pub life, I”m just going to refer to the latest issue of the Alibi, and the article  Tapping the Market by Brian Haney: “(the food truck/microbrew tryst) adds color, it adds life, it adds flavor, and it adds smell to the neighborhood and creates a whole new sense of community.” And beyond food or drink, it seems that’s something people want to support.”

So this spring: Supper Truck shrimp and grits, Boiler Monkey crepes, picnic blankets, amateur ukulele music and cut-throat croquet. We dont’ need to go to gay Paree after all! All that we could ever want is right here in our communal backyard.

Guatemala Travel Guide


Okay, several people called my bluff on the last post. It’s true; as much as I’m trying to be a depth person, I love me some broadness. I love you, World! All of you! Your lines that go up, your lines that go down, your tropics and arctics and islands and continents. Your mermaids and conquerors and sea kings with pitch forks! Your angry naked people who live in the clouds…your…um…okay, I don’t know what’s going on with this map. But my point is both.  Let us go deep and wide, just like that awful Sunday school song. Let us have it all! All three dimensions, plus the fourth dimension, and then, if four turns into five, like the ancient mystics predict, all sorts of crazy crap is gonna go down, like salt losing its saltiness and bodies disembodying and time loops collapsing. Also, in the fifth dimension, rosy finches are everywhere. (Yay!) But we don’t have eyes to see them. (Suck.)


My point is: depth and breadth may ultimately be the same direction and lead to the same thing. There’s no need to choose just one. Duh. This is why you leave home to find it, and also discover the world at home.

On to Guatemala!

Some tips, recommendations and lessons learned the hard way:

Lake Atitlan:

Lake Atitlan from Santa Cruz

Billed as “the most beautiful lake in the world.” Apparently also a promised land for Mormons who are moving there in droves because some of them believe the lake is part of the Waters of Mormon,  a sacred baptismal site in their not-so-ancient scriptures. I didn’t see any Mormons. What I saw was a sparkling, powdery blue lake, archetypal volcanoes, pine trees, yellow daisies, pink grasses, banana palms, Mayan villages, tourist villages, multi-million dollar vacation homes, and cliffside corn fields that looked impossible to harvest without rapelling gear. Unfortunately, the lake itself is becoming polluted from algal blooms that feeds on agricultural runoff and sewage. If you are out for a little dip and accidentally swallow  a mouthful while shouting at your two-year-old daughter to “Watch Mommy’s water tricks!” you might spend the next afternoon in a idyllic lakeside paradise voiding your digestive tract.

Nonverbal Business Contracts:

Volcan Pacaya

Don’t lose your walking stick on the top of a volcano. At least not if you rented the walking stick from some entrepreneurial ten-year-old Guatemalan boys for 10 quetzales. They’re gonna want it back and you’re gonna have to hide from them because a) you didn’t even know it was for rent; you thought it was for sale b) it’s at the top of the volcano.


old school marimba

The national instrument of Guatemala, though the marimba’s origins are disputed. Made from the hormigo tree, the tree of sweet, singing wood, also a favorite of ravenous ants (hence the name). You’ll see marimbas on the street, often accompanied by flutes, and turtle shell percussion. Sidenote: My grandma had a marimba in her house. Turns out the “music” my cousins and I would bang out with a fistful of mallets bore little resemblance to the national music of Guatemala.


main cathedral ruins

My favorite cities manifest the passing of time and tell us who we are: living, dying, beautiful temporal creatures. Decay. Mortality. Civilizational transience. Venice, Nimes, La Antigua. DEATH, people. Death.  You can barely make it one block in Antigua without stumbling upon another crumbling, peeling, church or monastery strewn with headless statuary and grass growing in old window fenestrations. Some of the buildings have toppled from earthquake damage, some have been taken apart brick by brick by squatters during the years when the former capital of Antigua was surrendered to earthquakes and left to languish as an abandoned backwater. Now the entire town is branded  a UNESCO world heritage site. This is how I would spend my free afternoons and study sessions: scampering over huge boulders of brick in a monastery courtyard, poking around old Franciscan kitchens overgrown with weeds, stepping over horny, yet mortal, young Guatemaltecos making out. “Love Among the Ruins.” It’s a poem by Robert Browning.

Colonial Icons:

Antigua cathedral icon

I ain’t gonna lie. Guatemala has some of the bitchin’est  religious colonial icons in the new world. I know because I saw it. And a curator told me.



We made our own ancient recipe hot chocolate (sans sacrificial blood) and truffles, starting with the fermented bean at the ChocoMuseo in Antigua. As you can see from this picture of a baby/kid who sat in on the workshop, it wasn’t rocket science.



My favorite Guatemalan snack. Think corn nuts but waaay better.

This Alley:

Walk to school

My favorite alley on the way to school. If you are walking to my school from my house, for some weird reason, go down this alley!

La Merced:

La Merced

My favorite church on the walk to school. Even if you aren’t walking to my school, you’ll probably end up there, because it’s pretty much the most famous church in Antigua, and a first rate example of an architectural style known as Earthquake Baroque.

Like my New Zealand travel guide, this is just a sliver of a list. In some ways better than Lonely Planet, in most ways, worse.  I left off much of my personal experiences with the lovely natives of Antigua, and the friends I made there, and the chicken buses, and the firecrackers and the Macadamia farm, and the creperie and Dona Maria’s dulces tipicos, and flower carpets, and top 40 hits set to Mayan flute music, and the mercado and processions of the Christ Child and the burning of the devil. But no one wants to scroll down that far.

So, this concludes my international travel guide double feature. Next week we will be back to ole New Mexico and the doings and beings right here.