Monday, February 18, 2008

Nuevo México en febrero

In Antonito, Colorado, there lives a crazy(?) man who built himself a house that is principally two large stone- and- cement towers adorned with soda cans and hubcaps. The locals refer to it as "Cano's Castle" (the man's moniker is his own truncation of "Chicano"), but the towers remind me more of bell towers on a church, which, taking into account the proclamations to/about Jesús y La Virgen and the virtures of mota, is perhaps the aesthetic he was aiming for. I'd heard about the place, but I saw with my own eyes for the first time yesterday as we made our way north through the San Luis Valley on our long-way-back from New Mexico. Is it "pilgrimage" if I sought it out of curiosity rather than some desire for spiritual awakening? I've had ganas to see it for a while. I wasn't disappointed. If I gave up on holding myself together, I wonder, would my mad energy manifest itself in something like this, or just more ramblings? I'd kind of prefer the funky aluminum castle to piles of illegible theorizing. Productive insanity is still productive, right?

My grandfather was sick last week. My parents had been down last weekend, and Dad said (in passing) that he's so frail that a bad cold could take him. The next night my step-grandmother called to tell us he'd come down with the flu. However, being a Montoya, within two days he'd rallied rather than passing (his own father died well after his hundredth birthday). Late Thursday night as we were sitting in bed, my husband suggested that we take Saturday morning to drive down and see him while we still could. So, we drove as far as Pueblo on Friday night and arrived in NM early Saturday morning and caught the viejo awake and (relatively) alert. It was good, and heartbreaking. He was more talkative than I'd seen him in at least a year, if not longer. He rambled on, losing the thread of each utterance less than five words in, and code-switching between Spanish and English at random. Both are more difficult to understand, not just because nothing makes sense, but because he doesn't wear his teeth. All that aside, he was happy. He hasn't known me for several years, but he's happy that someone who loves him has come for a visit. He held my hand while we walked around the building. He held my hand so tight, and there were moments when he looked me right in the eye as thought he wanted desperately to say something and couldn't put the pieces together. It hurts. I wonder what's still keeping him here, why he hasn't gone on yet, what more he can possibly accomplish in this life. Someday I might be privy to the reasons for this but in the mean time I'm just trying to figure it out.

I was a little teary as we left the hospital. My husband asked if I wanted to just keep driving south and relax for the weekend. Good man. We stopped in town for a while to visit with my step-grandmother, and then headed for Santa Fe. (On a slightly unrelated note, I have few fears about making it into my eighties if I can be as sharp and spry as she is).

The last coupled of times I'd been to Santa Fe had left me underwhelmed and with a mildly bad taste in my mouth, but in the off-season it's a different place. It's still colorful and quirky, but in a much more subdued, pleasant way. We've been tossing around the idea of possibly settling in northern NM, so it was nice to see a bit of its non-touristy side. I won't bore you with all the minute details of our weekend, but I will say that was relaxing to wander the streets and hang out with my husband, and that I ate too much. How can I turn down all that green chile? Also, the people were friendly and put up with all of our nit-picky questions about quality of life there. We may be relocating there sometime in the next few years. There, or any one of at least half a dozen other places on our list of options.

Lola is grateful for her awesome husband and her as-yet healthy mind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Carretera congelada

5:30-y-tal de la mañana: after spending around twenty minutes scraping a thick sheet ice off my windows, I'm satisfied that I have safe visibility. My little car struggles over the ice and up the hill to the light, and we manage a left turn onto University Boulevard. All is well, more or less, for about three blocks, at which point a light turns red and my attempt to brake sends me spinning. I deftly steer away from the big truck ahead of me and deposit myself in the relative safety of the lawn of the Methodist church. Kudos to me for not hitting a single tree.

The city is iced over, and I'm not going to Boulder today. Even if I managed to get there safely without careening off the road again (not all places are as friendly to me and my car as Methodist lawns), the round-trip commute alone would rob me of about five hours of my day. I can't sacrifice that kind of reading time. Me rindo. I got a sub and I emailed my profs to let them know I likely won't be in class this afternoon (if things clear, I may launch a second foray, but don't bet on it).

I recall previous mayoral adminstrations in Denver that had the sense to send out the plows. When did city hall stop watching the weather forecast?

I also had a nasty little sociological thought as I de-iced my windshield: Garages aren't just another convenient block of square-footage on your single-family home, they're a class-distinction-marker that can translate to social capital (Feel free to skip ahead to the end of the entry if you're already bored). Walk through it with me: Joe's job pays well enough that he has a place with a garage. On icy and snowy mornings, Joe just revs the engine, opens the door and drives cautiously (we hope). Jim, on the other hand, pulls down a smaller paycheck, so he pays lower rent or mortgage, and has to park out in the open. Jim has to scrape the ice off of his car, which delays him. This means he makes it into the morning rush a bit later (and we all know what an ugly difference five or ten minutes can make in traffic), which delays him further. Let's say Joe and Jim live within a mile of each other, so they both got hit by the same exact storm, and that they both leave the house at 7:30am. However, because Jim doesn't park his car in a garage, he arrives at the office a good fifteen to twenty minutes later that Joe, give or take. Even if he plans ahead and watches the forecast, Jim will probably consistently arrive five minutes late to work, all winter long. Even if Jim's boss is a kindly soul, these kinds of things will reflect poorly on him when evaluations and promotional opportunities come around. Joe and Jim's differential access to covered parking translates to differential access to professional advancement opportunities. Yes, a bit of a leap, I know, and I'm leaving out other factors-- maybe Joe is a lazy TFB and their boss promotes Jim because she thinks Joe's obnoxious, or perhaps Jim is a lush who'd show up late and hungover no matter where he parks-- but it does give pause.

Someday I'll have a place with a garage. By that time in my life, I'll probably be a kept woman who doesn't have to be at work at 8:00am, dangit.

Lola wishes you all a very happy Valentine's Day, Singles' Awareness Day, whatever you may call it. Go get yourself some chocolate, and drive safely.

Friday, February 8, 2008

género gramático

Once again, I'm updating not because I necessarily have anything worthwhile to say, but because this oft-neglected space needs some love. More of the same: the house is a mess because we have no time to pick up all the piles of books, teaching is good but not great, classes are great but the reading load is ridiculous, my husband rocks, etc., etc. Maybe this time no news is good news.

I started an Arabic class a couple of weeks ago. It's very, very low-key-- we only meet twice a week, there are no quizzes, no exams, no assignments, and no grades. The instructor is a PhD student over in Linguistics, and he does a great job of explaining the structures in simple linguistics terms. Simple? Well, I think so, but the other people in the class might not like it so well. I love it. Anyway, we blew through the alphabet and now we're learning the basics of noun phrases. Last night we learned some weird (I think) things about Arabic nouns. For those of you who can't disassociate biological gender from grammatical gender and grasp the arbitrariness of it all (I still have students who obsess about how and why a table is feminine and a book masculine), chew on this: There are some nouns that are masculine in the singular but feminine in the plural, and vice-versa. That's going to be a concordance headache for me, I know it already. Another funny arbitrary tidbit: Body parts that occur in pairs (eyes, feet, etc.) are feminine, while singular and non-dual-plural body parts (tongue, fingers, etc.) are for the most part masculine. The suspense was killing me. I asked my burning questions, and now I share with you, dear internet public: yes, in Arabic, "testicles" are feminine. Nope, nothing arbitrary about that. Ha.