Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baskets, Beanies, and Mata Ortiz

I really dont collect anything. I am assuming dust and pet fur dont count as valuable collectibles. I am always the skeptic when people pay high prices for items that have little use in their everyday life.

A decade ago  an Iowa friend was extolling the value of buying every Beanie baby that came on the market. I tried not to laugh. when I went to her house and found a beanie baby Christmas tree and these Tyco toys lining all the shelvin in her little room-I felt like crying. How could someone believe these mass produced would be worth more than gold. TV propoganda and society gulliblily prevailed.  Now every thrift store has these stuffed animals for 25cents and not even a new  puppy will play with them.

Then there are the Longenberg Basket parties.  These are valuable because they are made in America?
 There is a building shaped like a basket where they are made? They are madde out of wood not plastic?Housewives in Illinois can take turn hosting these parties and making money off their friends? I dont getit-there are no unuusual designs-they are outrageously overpriced. You can get the same basket to do the same thing at Micheals or Hobby Lobby for $5.00 or a Resale shop for 50cents.  Yet you can walk into every other home in the Midwest and there is a collection of these baskets hanging gaudily from the walls or falling from all the shelves in the kitchen. Why are women buying these overpriced baskets.

Recently my friend Therese, an artist  and I went to a pottery workshop at the Chiricahua Desert Museum in Rodeo, New Mexico.  There were probably 100 attedning this desert event which featured pottery making from the town of Mata /Ortiz. After watching  the pigments ground from rocks an brushes made from human hair, we became more enamored of these pricey pots for sale. We heard the history of this reborn lost art, we met the artists who also worked as bus drivers, and laundry workers. The wedding vases, squatty pots and figurines started at $50. Less than half of what they sold for at other museum gift storesand about the same price if I made the difficult journey to this mountain Mexican vllage.

Other particpnts in the workshops gatthered at the sales counter and display-we had to have an original Mata Ortiz pot...these could be worth alot some day. I bought a pot  with a road runner and cactus in hues of green and brown.  Therese opted for the traditional wedding vase. I cant tell you how much we paid as our husbands might read this; but they were a good investments

I now have them proudly on diplay in our home. this is the Southwest we dont collect anything like overpriced  Beanies or  baskets....

Monday, June 7, 2010

From Basements to Bookmobiles

I have been an addict for over 50 years now. My earliest fixes were The Bobbsey Twins. I would ride my bicycle to my Aunt Merle and Uncle Claude's dairy farm . It was a four mile round trip in the hot humid sweetcorn summers of Illinois. I would be greeted with a hug by my great aunt given sugary iced tea and maybe a homemade snickerdoodle and then I would retreat into the cool dark basement filled with books over a quarter century old.

There were my summer adventures with Freddie and Flossie and Nan and Bert; I traveled with them to Holland Michigan, to a Dude Ranch in the West, to the Empire State Building in New York city... places that were so unlike my life of bean fields, tractors and Angus cows. I read the Five little Peppers and how they grew; sobbed over classics like Little Women, Black Beauty and Jack London's tales of wolf dogs.

The following summers I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys but didn't really like the hospital settings of Cherry Ames-student nurse, but couldn't get enough of Trixie Belden .I eventually gobbled all the old tomes in the basement library and begged my parents for a membership to a public library.

We were 30 minutes by car to the closest library. At age 10 I was not allowed to ride my bike that far and so I waited for the weekly outing to the Hoopeston Public Library that became more sacred than a junkie's habit. This Andrew Carnegie architectural wonder was my portal to other worlds until I went a way to college and had a forced reading list of numerous texts.

My addiction to books have not faded over the years. There have been times when my half hearted pursuit of academics changed my reading habits. Semesters when the grading load as a professor strained my eyesight so that reading student essays had to become the priority. Then there was a time when I felt I should be writing not reading rhetoric.

When I rented my ocean balcony, complete with tiny kitchen and a bed, I was determined that the porch overlooking the ocean and town's gazebo was to be for writing books,  not reading them . Unfortunately I soon discovered the Oak Bluff library which was only a five minute walk from my house.

 The only words I wrote during those summers were postcards to my friends. I did spend allot of time on the porch mornings were spent drinking coffee and perusing the  newspapers and evening ended with a mudslide and D.H. Lawrence as the sun slid under the Atlantic's horizon. This procrastination of reading instead of writing remains even today despite my best intentions.

I never really had the habit of buying books....although recently a young neighbor came to our house and said he had never seen a home with so many books. I was surprised. We don't buy that many books, although my husband is a fervent reader too.

The books I have collected in my home are my non-fiction resources: writings about the historic West where we now live. There are shelves devoted to Native American literature, art, crafts, history, Anasazi sites and archeo-astronomy. With the abundance of varied species of hummingbirds visiting our homes we have been forced to identify  birding books, as well as pictured texts of venomous creatures of the Southwest, tracking books, and books about holes in the desert books have been recent acquisitions. Of course I must have my reference books- caring for my dogs, cats, donkey, alpaca and llama as well as Horses for Dummies and self help books by Dr. Oz , Dr. Phil, and cookbooks for cuisines from Japanese to Middle East to just carrots or chile pepper feasts.

We keep our fiction books by our favorite authors for our guests who are here. Tony Hillerman and JA Jance and Betty Webb who all write of the desert. My husband has some well worn manuals on electricity and home building and I have my secret stash of autographed books by authors I have met...not just their signatures, but authors I have dined with and had conversations and cocktails ...Maya Angelou, Rudolf Anaya, Chris Bojhiilian, and of Sand and Fog Fame. There are the books where I keep the pictures of myself with Annie Liebowitz (one of my pal's childhood friends) and a pix of Tony Hillerman and my mother who were Marines together in WW2.

Otherwise we purchase our books at thrift stores or yard  sales. When we have digested them, Cousin Bernadette also an avid reader is first on our recycle list after we score a new Baldacci, Patterson or Grisham . In return she shares her Costco new releases with us. After reading we pass these to Linda a prison guard with an addition for alpacas as well as books  or to neighbors  Tim and Theresea  who also share in our  habit.

Now isolated in the southwest desert; I must wait once a month for my big fix. It is one hundred miles to Tucson, and I really cant justify ordering the newest Swedish release of Sieg Larssen from  Especially when the book mobile journies to Dos Cabezas near my home  the first tuesday of every month.

The air conditioned internet  friendly library on wheels  always arrives on time and parks next to the abandoned adobe home in the  ghost town just off 186 on its way to the Chiricahuas. My dog Dharma and I never missDharma.

I hungrily grab the latest Susan Miller Cummings, a geologist who writes mysteries occasionally set in our neck of the woods, and am surpsied find the trio  of Chelsea Handler's comedic exploits on the shelf. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is checked out, but Ted orders it for me along with the sequel. It will arrive in a few days or a week or two in my mail box. In the meantime I have filled my book tote with my mind meth-all free thanks to my tax dollars and work.
I marvel at this unexpected luxury in my life and anxiously take the monthly calendar from Ted to post at home on my frig .  I am retired now. There are household and animal chores as well as my special projects.  I have gourds to paint, alpaca fiber to card, the great American novel to write. I plan to do all those things this summer. But first,I just have to finish this book I started..

Thursday, April 1, 2010


My cousins are in NYC celebrating their 60th birthdays. They have wanted to do this for a long time-maybe 60 years?
I love that they want to sit in on the Joy and Whoopi take on Elizabeth-the Right, and maybe get some free goodies. I can understand that and I would join them if the View was filmed in Tucson, but not NYC.
There was a time when I spent both my free time and money in the city. New York is "the city" if you are cool and live within 200 miles. Back then I thought I was very chic, very sophisticated, and very hip whenever I went into the city.
My pals and I would get tickets for Letterman or Saturday Night Live; we would go to a coffee house in the "village" when Starbuck was only a literary reference. We would take the subway uptown, downtown, midtown. We would buy Willi Wear and Norma Kamali.
I would speak enough Japanese to get a few free dishes at a sushi bar before California rolls were invented. The Prixe fix dinner was our French friend and the Met and Guggenheim were the eye candy dessert.
My knees shook coming down the narrow stairs from crowded Lady Liberty's crown; and we got souvenir glasses from Top of the World revolving bar in the World Trade Center.( I should never have sold those at my yard sale in 1984). We hiked to the top of the Empire State Building and got lost in Chinatown after having a Sunday full of dim sum.
In Little Italy we ate the best puttanesca, had the most authentic espresso and had the guilty pleasure of incredible tiramisu. The restaurants were all a shade of shadowy red,(maybe to hide the blood baths?) the waiters either courtly men, or grandmas keeping the bread and butter baskets filled.
I drove my VW convertible, my friends new Toyota, or Penn's States bus with a group of screaming yet to be enlightened students in downtown Manhattan. We yelled and shouted and cursed always in quest of the perfect parking spot but always ended up in a dismal spot for an outrageous fee.
Clean bathrooms were found at the library in Midtown, at McSorley's in the Village and at an old grad school pal's apartment on the edge of Harlem.
I vowed to move there before Sex in the City was a TV show. However always after 3 days or 3 Broadway shows I would be out of money and ready to go home.
Patti Lupone was Evita in first run, songs in "a Chorus Line " weren't cliches, and Barbara Walters was lunching at the Russian Tea Room, High Tea was still affordable at the Plaza and there were still long lines outside Studio 54. These are my memories of New York.

I am now 3000 miles and thirty years beyond celebrating any occasion in the Big Apple.

Now lunch out is at Grandma D's along old business 10 at a picnic table with my dog Dharma munching a toasted hot dog, while I enjoy a sloppy Joe. Dinner is at one of two Mexican restaurants and the bill for my husband and I comes in under $25.00 and that includes our margarita and beer.
We occasionally splurge with a latte from Tom's in the tumbling down old antique store, or a dipped cone from the drive thru Dairy Queen.
We went to see Spy Kids in 3d in the 100 year old theatre while our shoes stuck to the floor and celebrated St, Patrick's Day with $1.00 lime jello shots in the Palace Saloon where Warren Earp (Wyatt's not so famous brother took a bullet in his vest.
I shop for clothes at Bealls where the closest to upscale duds is a Jjill or Coldwater Creek shirt with tags marked off 80%. wait until Monday when I get an extra 15% off with my over 50 senior discount.
Ah and the cleanest bathroom is the Maid Rite feedstore where I buy my horses hay and grain. I drive to town in my husband's pickup truck or my ptcruiser convertible-(some desires stay the same). Parking is free; I almost always park in front of where I want to shop. I smile when I pass Rex Allen's statue and his horse Koko's grave. The landmark of downtown.
For my 55th birthday I walked our lighted alpaca in the Apple Festival Parade, gave the kids lining the street candy canes, and took Pizza Hut hand tossed home for my birthday's haute cuisine.
I am not sure where or what I want to do when I turn 60, but New York city doesn't beckon, to me anymore. Its allure has been lost. I am changed-I laugh at the thought of being chic.

I no longer need to travel to celebrate. Every day in the desert is a special occasion,but I am thinking when I turn 60 , I am gonna paint my horses nails gold and ride in Willcox's Rex Allen Day Parade.