Pig *** Co-written and directed by Michael Sarnoski. Starring Nicolas Cage and Steve Tisch. Plugs: None. Nearest: Cottonwood Mall.
The story in Pig cleverly unfolds piece by piece as the setting gets increasingly larger. The film begins with one man in front of a fire by a stream deep in the Oregon wilderness. His name is Rob, and the story expands to his hermit cabin, and to his pet pig, who he uses to find —or, rather, with whom he finds— expensive truffles in the forest undergrowth. The story expands further with the appearance at the cabin of a young hotshot aspiring restaurateur named Amir (Alex Wolff) who arrives to buy Rob’s truffles and bring supplies.
All goes well until Rob’s pig is stolen. This happens early in the film, and the bulk of the story is basically about a man trying to get his pig back. The story opens up even wider when Amir joins Rob (providing transportation to the city, and companionship) as they search high (tony restaurants) and low (scrubby back alleys) in search of information on who took the pig with the specialized truffle-scouting snout. For those wondering how this is going to sustain a feature-length film, writer/director Michael Sarnoski breaks his story down into parts and uses these characters to symbolize larger themes of loss and authenticity, with mixed success. Pig is reminiscent of films such as Captain Fantastic (2016) and Leave No Trace (2018) —both also set in the Pacific Northwest forests— as well as Susan Orlean’s book The Orchid Thief, the basis for the film Adaptation (2002), starring none other than Nicolas Cage.
This is the sort of story where a character sets out to see someone and it magically happens. The person seems to somehow be in just the right place at the right time to catch the other person alone, unoccupied, and in a receptive mood. It’s tricky to criticize the film for this, however, because the story is essentially a fable, and characters in fables are typically shallow and stereotyped: the villain, the handsome prince, and so on. Here we have a rugged, truth-living mountain man and his fake city slicker friend, and others who are various shades in between this yin and yang. While Pig may at its heart be a fable, it’s a filmed fable and thus audiences (and critics) have a reasonable expectation that the characters will be more fleshed out, for narrative purposes if no other.
There are two pivotal scenes which are played achingly earnest yet unfortunately ring false. I won’t detail them, but they involve Rob confronting people from his past and making them face their inner Truths over the course of a few minutes. Encounters with Rob tend to leave people reflecting on their lost dreams, a theme which may have read great on the page but on the screen comes off as pat, forced and unconvincing. Overall the performances are good, and Cage manages to avoid chewing the scenery; I just wish the script gave the actors more to work with.
You can see why Cage —who, let’s be honest, has not been the most discerning of actors— was drawn to the film. He gets to play a mysterious recluse, a man of few words but a reservoir of wisdom. He gets to play off of a series of foils including Amir, who offers a study in (often ham-handed) contrasts. Amir’s ostentatious, consumerist-driven, highfalutin’ life in Portland is seen as vacuous compared to Rob’s simple, rustic, idealized life of dubious hygiene and porcine-assisted truffle rustling. Truth is in the freedom and wilderness, while the city life is full of evil and deceit. We get it —and so does Rob, because as we come to learn he was once in that world. Pig is an odd, mediocre film; it’s better than its premise suggests, but often a bit too precious and ponderous, taking itself much too seriously.
Ourzazate and Erg Chebbi, Morocco
A few days after arriving in Marrakesh, on a lark I joined a handful of fellow travelers staying with me at the Hotel Afriquia —including a young female yoga instructor and her manager/boyfriend; a pleasant Irishman named Conor who spoke impenetrable brogue; and four Aussie girls on a three-day tour of the Central Atlas Valley, east of the city. We’d be seeing gorgeous gorges and classic casbahs as we wound through the mountains toward the Sahara, finally ending up among the most picturesque parts of the desert, the famed Erg Chebbi dunes. It’s been the backdrop to many films, perhaps most memorably The Mummy, which starred Brendan Fraser and had come out several years earlier, in 1999. It’s the beautiful, if stereotypical, image that most people have of the Sahara.
We headed out in a van, which was decent but with a total of 18 of us, a bit tight. Marrakesh has its exotic charm, but we were all eager to get out of the city and see the countryside. That enthusiasm was soon sapped by heat and tedium; for about half the trip we were all pretty tired. The van’s air conditioning did its best given the head count and the fact that we were headed toward one of the world’s greatest deserts, but between that and the engine droning all of us were asleep at some time or another —including, I suspect, the driver. We weren’t bored, but there were long stretches between points of interest, and usually a helpful neighbor would nudge me when something interesting approached, for a photograph if not a nodding, bleary acknowledgement.
It cooled a bit as we headed into the High Atlas’s sheer rocky cliffs. Further along the land flattened out into desert, and strongly resembled New Mexico in many ways. The lack of water thwarted any farming, and the strong winds would likely blow any seedlings away. The main industry was tending sheep, and we saw at least a dozen shepherds tending flocks of a few dozen sheep listlessly scrounging scarce scrub. The occasional buildings were usually in earthtones, and were in fact earth —not cement and certainly not wood. Along the road huge cactus plants grew in long rows, marking off property boundaries, as did piles of rocks which reminded me of the stone figure inukshuks I’d seen on the Canadian tundra along Hudson Bay.
Unfinished construction was common; about one out of every five buildings I saw lacked some important structural feature —usually a roof, or one of the walls. At times a would-be property was introduced with a large metal or wooden painted sign optimistically advertising (and often depicting) a lush hotel or resort which didn’t seem to have gotten much past pouring a foundation or planting a few (long since dead) trees. It was a sad and poignant scene that might have inspired Shelley’s lines about Ozymandias, king of kings. Despite the heat everyone got excited as the giant sloped dunes of Erg Chebbi came into focus through the wavering desert haze and heat, like a giant light pink slug on the horizon, lying in wait as we approached. About 40 minutes later we arrived at a small parking area that seemed to be surrounded by nothing but high sand dunes. We disembarked —reminded to bring our all-important 10-dirham quarts of bottled water— and were led around an otherwise invisible space between dunes where we found a waiting camel train.
We were each handed a wool blanket saddle and told to stand near the camels. All this was handled by a pair of Berbers, who were dressed in brilliant, deep blue cloth and, improbably, barefoot. I first noticed it when Conor, who was nearby, shouted some Irish gibberish to me. I smiled and pretended I understood him, but I think he was onto me and pointed at his, and then their, shoes (or lack thereof). The Berbers, both likely in their thirties, were deeply tanned, with pitch black hair and fierce mustaches that stood in contrast to their friendly grins and rudimentary English. One by one each tourist was placed on a correspondingly-sized camel. There were two camel trains, each characteristically surly (yet grudgingly dependable) animal tied with rope around their mouths, stomachs, and tails.
Off we went, leaving any torpor to the wind and sand. We were on a Grand Adventure, and each lurching plod of my camel shook off lingering drowsiness as we headed into the desert. Since I was a young boy I’d always fantasized about crossing the Sahara. We weren’t technically crossing it, of course… we were, at best, getting a tiny, touristy take on it. But it was still as close as I’d get, and I savored every second of it. I tried to get some photos of the desert and camel train behind me, but the disruptive dromedary made it impossible to steady the camera. The dunes were a delightful creamy pinkish tan, dotted only with the occasional small shrub and walnut-sized lumps of camel shit.
After about an hour covering perhaps two miles we came upon a Berber camp consisting of three low tents (the edges were about three feet off the ground and only accessible by crawling) surrounded by a large carpeted area. Our bags were stowed under the tents, and we were told we’d sleep outside on the carpet, unless a sandstorm came up, in which case we’d head to the tents.
Our camp was surrounded by dunes and at the base of the largest, probably 50 feet high. I was eager to explore the area in the waning hours of the day. I was told that was fine, but not to wander too far from camp. So —minding a compass and heading toward the setting sun for orientation— I immediately tried to test both my endurance and our guides’ patience. Unlike the Berbers I was wearing hiking boots, which protected my feet but whose weight made walking more arduous. Nevertheless I climbed about two or three big dunes before deciding I should turn 180 degrees and head back, following my tracks (as the only sign of where I’d come, there being nothing but blue skies and identical dunes all around me). A sudden sandstorm could be dangerous, if for no other reason than by erasing all traces of my return path, hence the compass.
As I walked back I noticed another camp, one I hadn’t seen when hiking the other direction, partially hidden by dunes. At first I thought it was another tourist camp, since many different tours often take customers to more or less the same places. But as I drew closer I realized it was a real Berber camp, and there was indeed a real Berber family living in it, with a small herd of goats nearby. This pleased me immensely, as it closely resembled our own camp. Tourists, of course, would never truly experience a desert nomad’s life after a single night on the edge of the Sahara, but it seemed reasonably authentic.
Upon returning I wandered a bit more, though staying within sight of the camp. I soon heard a bell ring and joined everyone for a dinner of bread with a bowl of peas, potatoes and goat meat. After desert dessert consisting of an orange, people broke into groups. Some swapped travel stories, and pretended they knew what the hell Conor was saying. Others discussed politics, while still others shared lame jokes. All was fine until a guitar somehow materialized and some idiot decided that everyone should sing songs. That was my cue to call it a night. I didn’t mind the butchered “Yellow Submarine,” but I didn’t come all the way to the Moroccan Sahara to hear “American Pie” sung by people who stumbled through everything but the chorus.
I took a sleeping pill and tried to fall asleep, picking a place on the edge of the carpet just outside the campfire light, but the goings-on were too distracting. I decided to sleep on top of the big dune, by myself, under the star-sprinkled night sky. I slowly edged out of sight, hoping the Berber twins didn’t take a head count. I brought only a bottle of water and my glasses, and made my way up the sliding sand to the crest of the dune. I settled in and had a front-row seat to the heavens. I could see for miles, nothing but dunes, stars, and the occasional faint glow of what might be other camps in the far distance —maybe a few hundred meters away, maybe many miles. No cities, no light pollution, no nothing. I soon stripped down to my underwear, carving out a small sand hollow for my shoulders and hips. A welcoming Saharan breeze cooled me off, sometimes sprinkling sand into my eyes, nose and ears. I didn’t care; I savored that as well. I made a pillow of my rolled-up pants and shirt and drifted to sleep with a smile, another childhood dream realized.
By Barry Abel
Welcome back! The last year was difficult for so many we all know —relatives, friends— all over the country. Activities curtailed, restaurants closed, isolation the reality of each day. Now we celebrate another beginning. Corrales and the rest of the country are open for business. Restaurants are busy and social and recreational activities resume. How will our reawakening look and feel? For those of us in Village in the Village, we are slowly getting back to in-person social activities. We had our first happy hour outside at Casa Vieja. The setting was lovely. Coffee hours on Friday mornings at the Bistro are ongoing, and by now we’ve held our first monthly lunch for members. Our board had its first in-person meeting in over a year.
ViV is planning a “Discovery” lecture series in the early fall —we don’t have the venue yet but hope to find a place in the village. We already have terrific speakers lined up to discuss resiliency, the new law in New Mexico that allows Medical Aid in Dying, caregiving and caretaking, and more. Stay tuned. As I’ve noted in my last two columns, we joined ViV to give back, to make our neighbors’ lives easier, to enable seniors to continue living independently in their own homes as long as they wish and are still physically able to do so. We get the rewards of participating in that mission all the time. But the best and most unexpected reward is finding a whole new group of good friends and companions through ViV. All the social functions (some noted above) enable us to find the community that makes life easier and so much more rewarding. Those who grew up in the area still have that network of family and friends from childhood to call on in good times and bad. But many of us found Corrales, and even New Mexico, later in life. We have family and childhood friends scattered all over —they’re just not here. For us, ViV has been key to building our own support and friendship network right here where we choose to live.
I’m convinced that the peacefulness and lack of stress to living in Corrales are significant factors in enabling so many we know to extend their lives significantly beyond the lifespans enjoyed by the last generation, back where we grew up. Having a group of good friends and a support network is an important part of that reality. We hope you will join us as members of ViV. You don’t have to provide services to be a member —just being a member, you help support our mission. Plus, you should know that all members have the opportunity to request services when needed.
Need help hanging that new large screen on-the-wall TV? Need a ride to the airport or to the eye doctor for that appointment where they dilate your eyes? ViV members can call or email and our friendly call manager will find a fellow ViV member to provide the service that you need. And all the friendships and group support, the learnings from the “Discovery” series, exploring new places for lunch or coffee, all that is just a wonderful bonus. We’re looking forward to getting to know you.
Barry Abel is an active member and volunteer in Village in the Village. For more information, visit our website at VillageintheVillage.org
By Barry Abel
Many of us have chosen Corrales as the community in which we wish to live now that we have retired and can settle wherever we choose. That means we come here without family or the benefits of our long-time support groups. Corrales is exactly where we want to be. We build a network here of friends; we find so much to do. But later in life, we will need something more.
To many of us, Village in the Village/Corrales (ViV) helps in both areas: we form many friendships with other Corraleños in and through ViV and, in times of need, we find the assistance we require through ViV which provides volunteer friend- and neighbor-like services to members who need them.
Recent events involving friends and extended family have underscored this for me, especially the need for support and help when the time arises. Two couples were involved - in one, the husband was stricken by a profoundly serious affliction and hospitalized, very ill, sedated. His recovery will be long and will require significant speech and physical rehabilitation. In the other couple, the husband's cancer, which he had had for three years hardly showing any evidence thereof, finally reached his brain. He died about a week later.
In both cases, the wife isn't able to continue to live independently without a partner to help carry the burden. In one situation, there really wasn't any backup or helping community group where they lived. The full burden fell onto family members —a grown child who lived a four or five-hour drive away in the neighboring state and a sister, now 80, at the far end of the country. In the other situation, the couple belonged to ViV.
Despite the unanticipated death of the husband, ViV stepped in to help. We visited our friend in her own home, took her to lunch, helped her process what had happened and focus on her future. Those services from ViV gave precious time for the couple’s grown children to put affairs in order, proceed with cleaning out the house, make arrangements for their mother's future, and so on.
It just underscored the point about why we choose to be members of ViV. Another ViV member and long-time Corrales resident who, at 95, has lots of friends in the community and especially in ViV, comments there is simply no way she would still be alive and functioning without the support she gets and has received from ViV and its volunteers, much less still be living in her own house at this age.
For some, active church groups can fill that role. For some, family members who live in the same area can do it. For many of us, ViV fills that role. And the fact is, making sure one has that network of support becomes more and more important the older we get.
We believe it is essential, especially if you are single and “not so young anymore,” to make some sort of arrangement for yourself. Do it for what ViV offers in the present, or simply for ‘just in case’. For many of us, Village in the Village provides the answers. ViV offers social opportunities —weekly gatherings in person and via Zoom like Friday morning coffee or breakfast and a monthly Happy Hour, learning opportunities, active activities like bocce ball. And ViV significantly expands the number of our friends in our chosen community - Corrales.
Barry Abel is an active member and volunteer for Village in the Village. For more information about the organization go to http://www.villageinthevillage.org
Cuyabeno, Ecuador 2015
As destructive as oil development in Ecuador’s Amazon region has been, we would not have been able to experience the remarkable headwaters of the world’s mightiest river system without it. Exploitation of the country’s petroleum reserves opened up the vast, flooded rainforest in the northeast corner of Ecuador, near the convergence of its boundary with Colombia and Peru.
Roads carved into the “impenetrable” forest brought in hordes of oilfield workers and pipeline installers so that the black treasure could be pumped away, over the daunting Andes range and on to the Atlantic for export.
World attention has been fixed on the rampant deforestation of Brazil’s Amazon region, which is finally recognized as an unparalleled crisis for the planet’s ecosystem. But the 2.9 million square- mile basin —the world’s largest, draining about 40 percent of the continent— covers much more than the expanse in Brazil where the burning of cleared land has exacerbated carbon accumulation in the atmosphere.
Ecuador is one of the smaller South American countries, especially compared to Brazil, but devastation of its rainforest derives from extraction of fossil fuel rather than burning of trees or the clearing of land for grazing. Ecuador has oil reserves estimated at eight billion barrels.
International concern over wanton destruction of Ecuador’s Amazon region gave rise to an ambitious program for a 2007 deal by which the Ecuadorian government would prohibit oil development in the Yasuní Reserve if the international community would pay $3.6 billion in exchange. When only $13 million was raised, the deal was cancelled and petroleum exploitation began in 2016.
As a result, swathes of Ecuador’s Amazonian rainforest have been cleared, the equivalent of 110 football fields a day on average. To service some 3,400 oil wells there, more than 6,000 miles of roads were carved into the jungle, especially around Cuyabeno. In one of the region’s indigenous languages, Siona Secoya, “cuyabeno” means “river of kindness.”
For various reasons —one suspects they include the remote location, bribes to regulators, and the powerlessness of native tribes —oil companies contaminated surrounding waterways with dumped petroleum waste and spills. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court levied a settlement of $9.5 billion against Chevron, which had acquired Texaco’s disastrous oil extraction legacy here. That judgement dampened the industry’s interest for a while. But in 2019 more oil fields were acquired in the area around the Reserva de Producción Faunística Cuyabeno.
The lakes and waterways here in the eastern foothills of the Andes receive an average of 180 inches of rain yearly —often more than 15 feet —which pours into the vast Amazon floodplain.
Easily ranked among the most biologically diverse regions in the world—especially considering that so much of the surface is water—the reserve is home to 10 species of monkeys, two species of river dolphin, jaguar, puma, boa constrictors, anaconda and nearly 600 species of birds.
Getting around is limited almost entirely to boat during much of the time and to visit some parts, paddles are the chosen method of propulsion to maintain serenity for wildlife. Gliding slowly beneath the jungle canopy, we can see monkeys crossing the waterways in single file except for the occasional rebel who leaps from a high branch to land on a cushy mat of vegetation at water’s edge and rejoin the troop.
I first visited Ecuador’s Amazonas territory in 1962, a young journalist invited to accompany two government officials inspecting rain-eroded roads into the jungle. Passing Shell Mera, the oil exploration outpost established by Royal Dutch Shell in 1937, we continued on to the very end of the unpaved road where we did, indeed, find severe damage.
Shell abandoned the village and its airstrip after about ten years, but both were revived in 1954 by missionaries determined to spread Christianity to the jungle tribes. Five of the missionaries were killed with spears by members of the Huaorani tribe (also known as Aucas) six years before my first visit. The region’s Jivaro tribes were also thought to still produce shrunken heads, known as tsantzas, in those days.
The lure of oil riches soon attracted more intense exploration by U.S. companies which announced in the early 1960s that they had found nothing of interest. But Ecuadorians were convinced that was false—that the oil companies had simply capped the wells to await more favorable market conditions. That inflamed anti-American sentiment while I was there in 1962.
That suspicion proved justified; by 1980 Ecuador produced an estimated 230,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Now most of it comes from wells around, and even inside, Cuyabeno Reserve.
By Steve Komadina
Out of the Pandemic? I have met with veterinarians and trainers in the last three months, and it is satisfying to witness the great awakening in the horse world. As restrictions have been cautiously raised, the interaction of equine fanatics has begun to unfold. It has been a tough year with loved ones lost and others weakened by the COVID-16 virus. Therapeutic riding programs closed, and stables were on lock-down. But we are waking up and coming alive and the excitement is palpable. Most encouraging is the excitement for many big shows like the Arab Youth Nationals in Oklahoma this month. A scan of the entrants shows many New Mexicans and classes with 40-60 entrants. These numbers have not been seen for several years even pre-COVID. There was time for training and private lessons during the lock-down and now everyone is anxious to try for that ribbon or trophy or even the roses!
Rodeo also is alive and well. Rodeo events are springing up in every little community and the kids are ready to ride. Horses and children: not ready to go away yet! Sure, there are some who would rather jump on an ATV, or just close the door to their room and spend hours immersed in a video game killing hoards trying to storm the castle or outrun the police as they make their heist of millions. But there still are those youth who saddle up and learn to work with another breathing, living, thinking being who will take them to their dream destinations. For eons, humans have partnered with these great animals to explore the world and find new horizons of opportunity. The horse youth of today can experience the same thrills and hard work and yes, even discomfort known to those who lived in the past.
My grandpa Pollock was a cowboy in Tropic, Utah and he gathered cattle in Bryce Canyon and moved them to new pastures in the late 1980s. He never quite left that life behind as he married and moved to Salt Lake City, where he worked as a barber and raised a family. I have looked at his picture leaning on his saddle horn and found it easy to close my eyes and imagine him riding along with me through the bosque and sharing thoughts as we watched the sun come up over the Sandias. I never knew him, but I think we were soul brothers when it came to love of a good horse between our legs.
Here is to the horse youth of today! Ride on and win that ribbon or capture that dream. Do not be afraid to hit the trail and follow the paths of those who went before. You are blessed to live in Corrales and do not miss the opportunity to wave if you see me on the trail. Saddle up! Tomorrow may be too late.
I met Bing on the Internet. A failed show dog, he was on sale and needed a home. A mahogany-toned, one-year-old Belgian Tervuren, he lived in Ogallala, Nebraska. I lived in New Mexico.
My husband, Walter, and I had just lost our half-Belgian rescue dog, Cheyenne. After his death, silence invaded our home with sinister tendrils of loss. We wanted another dog, preferably a Belgian, but a dog who needed a new home.
Belgians aren’t too popular in the United States, so we searched for one online. For five weeks, none were available, but our name was in some queue out in the ether. At week six, Walter received an email about a young male —Bing— who needed a home.
“Why is he available?” we wondered. The breeder answered our questions: Bing was a head-shy show dog who growled at the judges. She couldn’t breed or show him.
“OK, he has issues,” remarked my husband. We offered to adopt him.
The adoption application required us to provide photos of our backyard and the dog’s sleeping area inside the house. We supplied references and wondered if the breeder would run a criminal background check and credit report on us. The questionnaire asked how much we thought it would cost to feed the dog, provide medical care, and supply the dog with “enrichment” and toys for a year. Would we purchase pet insurance?
Three weeks after submitting our application, we learned we were among the finalists to be awarded —yes, awarded— Bing. Not that he would be free, but his price was reduced because of his issues. The competition was on.
We sent photographs of our previous dog, Cheyenne, at Big Sur, walking in nearby parks, and eating at outdoor restaurants.
Still, there was no decision about who would get...I mean be awarded...Bing.
To clinch the deal, I sent the breeder reprints of my newspaper column, Dog’s Day Out, which was published in our local newspaper where I lived in Los Angeles. Cheyenne and I visited different venues and “we” wrote about the great things for dogs and their humans to do. The column apparently made an impression and —here’s that word again— we were awarded young Bing. With one stipulation. The dog must be neutered, so the shyness trait would not be passed on. The breeder would have him fixed.
We drove from Albuquerque to Ogallala in one day. 613 miles. We spent the night in a motel and arrived at the breeder’s house early the following morning, where a pack of nine Belgian Tervurens greeted us: Bing’s father looked like a bear; his mother was dainty. His brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins welcomed us.
But not Bing. He stood apart.
Accompanied by an entourage of dogs that rivaled the President’s Secret Service detail, we entered the breeder’s house. All tails were wagging, all faces relaxed.
Except for Bing.
With one whistle from the breeder, each dog settled into its cage.
Not Bing. He clung to his mistress.
My husband and I gave each other a knowing look. “It’ll be OK,” I whispered.
The breeder gave us Bing’s favorite toy. The other dogs followed as we exited the house. Bing’s parents jumped into our car, while Bing stood beside the car, refusing to get in.
I coaxed his mom and dad out of the vehicle, then Walter guided Bing inside. I felt guilty taking him away from his family.
Images of sun and clouds casting rippling shadows on vast expanses of rolling range land made for a beautiful drive. And, since I was driving, Walt turned his full attention to our new pet.
I didn’t care for the name “Bing.” The dog’s American Kennel Club name was “Aktion Pak Behaving Badly,” a moniker he would live up to by rummaging through garbage pails, bounding over walls, eating sneakers, and so on. But we didn’t know all that, then.
“What do you think of the name ‘Ranger’?” I asked.
“I like it,” Walt responded.
Bing became Ranger, and though he was our dog, by Denver he belonged to Walter.
Ranger loved riding in the car, excelled at agility courses, and was game for anything —hiking, al fresco dining, doggie day care, dog parks, Halloween parades, hotel stays, and endless rounds of fetch. Yet, he remained a shy dog who felt safest with Walter.
No dog lives long enough. Ranger died at fifteen-and-a-half and we cherish the memories of our marked-down Internet dog.
Every spring I take stock.
I look around my village to see what we might have lost since this time last year. The feed store still sells baby chicks. Someone plowed the fields at the north end, and buds are swelling on the apple trees.
At the Frontier Mart we still sell asparagus gathered from along the irrigation ditch, and children still buy jacks, marbles, jump ropes and kites, but near the door between the Popsicle freezer and the 50-pound dog food, the garden seeds are gone.
Last year I received a letter from Mr. Burpee saying we hadn’t sold enough seeds to warrant sending more. I miss getting the big parcel where tab A slid into slot B and all that cardboard folded magically into a panoply of snapdragons and four-o-clocks, zucchini, carrots and lima beans.
No sooner would I assemble the display and arrange the seeds than men in coveralls would come to read the seed packets, to contemplate the sunlight, soil and water requirements, and to count the days until maturity. They fingered the envelopes like kids in the candy aisle, then carried their selections away like little packets of promise.
Three of my seed customers were Ramón and Julio Tenorio and Walter Atkerson. Maybe a storekeeper shouldn’t play favorites, but in 18 years of business, Ramón, Julio and Walter are at the top of my list.
The three of them grew corn and cabbage and they raised pigs. Ramón and Julio were brothers from one of Corrales’s old families. On spring mornings Julio and his horse, Smokey, plowed the field at the corner of Tenorio and Corrales Roads.
Walter was a true cowboy who had come down from Colorado (pronounced Colo-ray-do) in the 1940s. He’s the only 82 year-old I’ve known who rode his horse every day.
Ramón and Walter were best friends who traveled together. When Walter’s car wouldn’t start, they rode to my store on a tractor with Ramón in the driver’s seat and Walter standing alongside. They bought Jimmy Dean sausage, single-edge razor blades, and shaving cream in a cup with a bristle brush. Heading home, the old tractor crept along the two-lane road at fifteen miles per hour, and cars moved into the left lane to pass. Traffic was light then, tractors commonplace.
On Friday nights when I saw Ramón and Walter’s tractor parked at the Territorial House, I’d stop and find them in the bar. Ramón talked about family and farming. Walter told about his days as a cowboy on the Black Ranch. After a while I’d say, “I have to go. You guys behave.”
Ramón would look offended. “I always behave,” he’d say. “I work hard and go to church every day.”
Walter rolled his eyes and mumbled something about blowing smoke.
Julio, Ramón, and Walter haven’t been in the store for a long time now. We didn’t mark their last visit or say goodbye. One day we just realized they hadn’t come in.
I’m told Julio and Ramón died more than a year ago, and Walter’s gone now, too. I think of them whenever I think of spring and farming and Burpee seeds. It makes me look around to see what’s missing. Then I memorize what we have left in case it comes up missing next year. What I’m trying to say is, if I’d known it was my last Burpee seed display, I would have paid more attention.
Editor’s note: This column was first published in Corrales Comment 26 years ago, but readers said it was one of their favorites. Jean Waszak agreed to have it published again in this special Garden and Landscape issue. Other columns of hers may re-appear from time to time.
Even though movie theaters have been closed during this pandemic there are other ways to see films, such as via Netflix and many streaming options. For those who would like to see first-run films which would be in theaters now, Albuquerque’s own independent Guild Cinema is offering a home viewing option. You can find a wide list of films at http://www.GuildCinema.com, and a portion of the screening fee goes to support the Guild. Unless otherwise noted, all films reviewed here are available at that link. The Guild and other local theaters are, or soon will be, opening at partial capacity.
The Woman Who Loves Giraffes: The Story of Anne Innis Dagg HHHHH Directed by Alison Reid. Plugs: None.
Available via GuildCinema.com for a limited time
The new documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes tells the story of a remarkable Canadian woman named Anne Innis Dagg, who first became fascinated by giraffes as a young girl upon seeing them at the Chicago Zoo. Though virtually unknown —and certainly not as recognized as some of her female contemporaries including Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey— in the early 1950s, Dagg was frustrated and surprised that there was very little written about the biology and behavior of giraffes.
Only 23 at the time, in 1956 Dagg decided that she would have to do the research herself. She then traveled to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild. This would have been an impressive enough feat in its own right, but is even more remarkable when we consider the social and political climate of the time. In the 1950s young women simply didn’t do that; they were supposed to get married and raise children, not head off to Africa alone to study wild giraffes.
Dagg had applied to live and study at ranches near where giraffes roamed wild, and was roundly rejected —because, you know, it’s a dangerous area and no place for a woman! Nevertheless she persisted, and eventually a South African citrus farmer named Alexander Matthew reluctantly agreed to house her. She then spent months in the field taking extensive notes about all aspects of giraffe behavior. Her research led to writing the definitive textbook about giraffes —one that is still used and taught to this day. She and Matthew became and remained life-long friends.
But The Woman Who Loves Giraffes isn’t just about giraffes. Dagg’s story is also told through the prism of sexism (and, to a lesser degree, racism, insofar as her research was done in apartheid-era South Africa). Upon her return, Dagg was denied tenure at the University of Guelph in 1972 despite her original research, impeccable credentials, and articles in peer-reviewed publications.
One of her professors at the time is interviewed and claims —mostly unconvincingly— that there was in fact no Old Boys Club thwarting her career and that Dagg had merely given up seeking tenure too soon.
Sadly, the impediments soured Dagg on academia and she turned to other things, including raising children and writing books about sexism and feminism. (In 2019 the University of Guelph issued a formal apology to Dagg and established a research scholarship in her name to support undergraduate women studying zoology or biodiversity.)
Dagg had assumed she’d been long forgotten, but that wasn’t in fact true. With a few parallels to the documentary Searching for Sugar Man, unbeknownst to Dagg her seminal books on giraffes were still widely read and revered in the (admittedly niche) world of giraffe experts and zoologists. The last third of The Woman Who Loves Giraffes focuses on Dagg’s unlikely return to both (some semblance of) recognition and the South African ranch where she did her pioneering research some half-century earlier.
It’s a bittersweet return in part because the giraffe populations have since been decimated (she notes ruefully that during her years there it hadn’t occurred to her that giraffes might ever be endangered, because they were so plentiful and beautiful). The film points out that while other African animals such as gorillas, elephants and rhinos (quite rightly) get attention and donations, giraffes for whatever reason don’t elicit quite the same sympathy from the public and wildlife organizations. The film suggests that donations can be made to the Reticulated Giraffe Project.
Director Alison Reid masterfully combines archival footage and current interviews, and must have been delighted that Dagg had appeared on a 1965 episode of the game show To Tell the Truth, which opens the film. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes is a wonderful and inspiring story of a strong, fearless female scientist who led an astonishing life and contributed groundbreaking zoological research about these endangered animals.
• The Albuquerque Public Library is presenting a slew of online Facebook events in July, from No Bake Dog Treats July 12 at 4 p.m. to A Medieval Chainmaille project, July 16 at 6 p.m. Plus Polka Music with Mike Schneider, July 20, at 11 a.m. and STEM in Fairy Tales, July 23, at 6 p.m. Check things out at https://abqlibrary.org/events/digitalevents and/or https://www.facebook.com/ABCLibrary/events
• The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe is offering another in its Native Pottery Demonstration Series, this one featuring Gabriel O. Paloma of Zuni Pueblo, July 14 at 10 a.m. via Zoom. Paloma is a traditional potter and educator from the Pueblo of Zuni, and a SWAIA Fellowship Award Artist (2004). “His goal is to revitalize Zuni polychrome styles from the 1800s and 1900s.” Register at https://tinyurl. com/3efaaa
• A Celebration of Lavender, July 10, 17, arts/crafts/ photography and more, Los Ranchos Art Market Cooperative, from 8:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Los Ranchos Art Market. For info text 978.578.6297. 6718 Rio Grande Blvd.
• The National Hispanic Cultural Center, July 13, 8 p.m., presents Compañía Flamenca Irene Lozano “Lachiqui de Málaga” – Las Mujeres Que Habitan en Mi, described as “a stunning tribute to all of the women and the possibilities that have influenced Lozano’s life and art.” Tickets: https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/location/national-hispanic-cultural-center-albuquerque. The center also is offering guided tours of the Mundos de Mestizaje fresco by Frederico Vigil in the Torreón. Thursdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. on the NHCC Campus. Mundos de Mestizaje depicts thousands of years of Hispanic culture, history, and identity, and the 4000 square foot painting is said to be one of the largest frescos in North America. Admission for the tour is $2 and tickets are available for advance purchase at https://my.nmculture.org /events/31,34,1116,1097?view=calendar Tickets also can also be purchased in the New Mexico Mutual Welcome Center, depending on availability. Capacity for each tour is limited. NHCC, 1701 4th Street SW, now open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• In Bloom is the first in person gallery exhibit since the pandemic era by the New Mexico Art League, on now through July 17. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. And it’s also viewable online at https://newmexicoartleague.org/page-1804228 3409 Juan Tabo.
• Albuquerque Little Theatre has resumed live performances, through August 29. It’s presenting three productions: Barrymore, The Belle of Amherst, and Barefoot in the Park. Thursday – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Barrymore, Dickinson and Neil Simon, how can they miss? 224 San Pasquale SW. Tickets: https://click4tix.com/alt/events.php
• NM Humanities Council launched a new series called Starting Conversations this spring. One presentation of particular interest is called Acequia Aqui-- Placemaking and Placekeeping, with a focus on the acequias of Taos. It is available on YouTube. https://nmhumanities.org/StartingConversations
• The Iconic Judy Chicago, at Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, opening reception Friday, July 16, 2021, from 6-7 p.m. Described as a “social justice” artist, Chicago, now 81, a resident of Belen, New Mexico, is getting a major retrospective at the de Young Museum, San Francisco, from August 28, 2021 –January 9, 2022. Turner Carroll has posted not only a 12 minute film on Chicago’s printmaking career, but is also offering up several of said prints for sale. https://www.turnercarrollgallery.com/judy-chicago-a-revolution-in-print. 725 Canyon Road. 986-9800
• Ready, Set, Grow. July 21, Medicinal Plants, 3 p.m. free session with Dr. Ivette Guzmán. Guzmán introduces us to common garden and house plants that have medicinal value. ( Cannabis, too?) Guzmán is the Assistant Professor of Horticulture at New Mexico State University.
Webinar registration here: https://nmsu.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAtfuGrrTsoGNev9tSKiZOs3tnUql86vgIH For more info on the Guzmán Farm-to-Cell research group, visit https: //aces.nmsu.edu/guzman/.Did You Know? You, too, can create an aquaponics setup at your place. Wasn’t this a project you meant to get to during COVID? Growing veg from water infused with fish, uh, poop, and eating the fish as well? It does require water, which is becoming scarce, but not that much of it. And many ’ponics people power their projects with solar. So now, as we apparently enter the post pandemic era, aquaponics expert Charlie Schultz of Santa Fe Community College is doing a free four-part series of which you can partake. He’s working with Rossana Sallenave, NMSU College of ACES, and though the course starts July 8, you can catch up. July 15, 22, 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. You must register for this free course. For full details see https://bernalilloextension. nmsu.edu and click aquaponics. In Corrales
• Jazz in July, presented by Corrales Arts Center. Zoom jazz experiences in four sessions, featuring trumpeter Bobby Shew, record producer and collector, Joe Washek, and singer with a Phd in Jazz Studies, Diane Richardson. July 11, 2:30 to 4 p.m.; July 13, 2 to 3:30 p.m.; July 20, 2 to 3:30 p.m.; and July 27, 2 to 3:30 p.m. $20. Contact Joann MacKenzie for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 771-2244
• Village Council meeting, July 20, 6:30 p.m., still posted as via Zoom.
• Corrales Bistro has packed its calendar with numerous musical offerings, so do not miss The Incredible Woodpeckers July 17, at 7 p.m. Performances at 7 p.m. nightly , 3 p.m. Sundays. The Bistro’s calendar for 2021 is viewable at https://cbbistro.com/monthly-music-calendar/
• Planning and Zoning meeting, July 21, 6:30 p.m., still posted as via Zoom.
• Corrales Library. Book Club, July 26, 2:30 p.m., “City of Thieves,” by David Benioff, set in Leningrad during WW2. Author series, July 27, 7 p.m., Carolyn Graham on her book “New Mexico Food Trails.” Please contact Sandra Baldonado for Zoom event details. sandra@corraleslibrary. org.
• 33rd Annual Old Church Fine Arts Show still seeks entries, from now to July 15. The show will run in person October 2-10, October 11-31 online. Info: http://www.CorralesHistory.org.
• Corrales Growers’ Market. Weekly Sunday sessions in July, 9 to noon. July 11; tentative first Wednesday market July 14, also 9 to noon; July 18; July 21; July 25; July 28. Still no dogs allowed…no music, either.
• Village in the Village. Coffee hour, Fridays, 9 to 11 a.m. in person at Corrales Bistro. Reservations are required. Call 274-6206 or email corrales.viv @gmail.com. Book Club, July 19, via Zoom, 3-4 p.m. The classic “A Canticle for Liebowitz,” is a “post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller Jr., first published in 1959. Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war…”