Monthly Archives: April 2012

Collaterally Damaged….

**Note** This is article, which I wrote for Isthmus newspaper in Madison, WI, was first published on April 5, 2012.  At night, when the lights go out, Ahmed Etaymish, 29, is transported from Madison back to Baghdad, where he relives the horror that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sometimes he reimagines his brushes with death or the murders he’s witnessed. Other times he’s choking on the mist of human tissue that lingers in the air following a car bombing. More often he’s back in the morgues searching for his father, a university professor abducted by… Continue Reading

The Land Where Nothing is Everything

Rio Arriba County, NM – Land of Enchantment is a supremely apt description for New Mexico. As someone last night said of the landscape, It really draws you in. Indeed, northern New Mexico is otherworldly. Once a week I drive 66 miles from Española to Tierra Amarilla, the county seat. Highway 84 north, paved along an ancient seabed, snakes across pastoral valleys before entering the red rock canyons that you can see jutting above the horizon from miles away. But there comes this point when these sheer rock cliffs begin to rise rapidly toward the sky. In an instant the… Continue Reading

Third-Class Citizens

Rio Arriba County, NM – I’ve come to enjoy indulging the White people here who complain about being treated like third-class citizens – behind the Natives even! Oh, the audacity of these brown people. In their own ancestral lands! It is true, though. People eye you when you enter bars or restaurants and you try not to stare back, but you can feel their eyes on you. Aside from the handful of people I work with, I may go all week without seeing another Gringo and when I do it’s likely a family that had traveled from Los Alamos to… Continue Reading

To The Death (In Pictures)

Española, NM – Yesterday a minor ruckus erupted outside my house. An inattentive bee had flown into the web spun by a spider that had hunkered down in the corner of the adobe’s doorframe. It thrashed and buzzed wildly, trying to free itself. What unfolded was an epic battle between two gnarly insects that both can cause pain to the human body with their stings and bites. But this was a battle of life and death for both creatures. Being a spider hater, my sympathies were 100 percent with the bee, though, as an observer, I kind of wanted to… Continue Reading

Dead Dogs and Old Dusty Towns

Rio Arriba County, NM – You can’t fully appreciate the lunacy of cities until you’ve spent enough time in the country that you feel that full break from modernity. Rio Arriba County widens that disconnect because not only is it rural, but it’s primitive enough to feel entirely of a different time. The rhythms and sounds are different. More peaceful. Serene. The other day, while driving along the Rio Chama river corridor, I saw a pair of guys on horseback galloping among their large herd of cattle. The dogs ran at the margins to keep the herd in formation as… Continue Reading

The Good Friday Pilgrimage

Chimayó, NM – After two weeks in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, I’m still fascinated daily with how different life is here. Were it not for the Post Offices and English-language road signs no one could fault you for wondering whether you hadn’t somehow slipped out of the United States without realizing it. Here, things like the Declaration of Independence or places like Philadelphia have little significance. The Mayflower and Jamestown mean nothing, either, because residents of this area have a very different origin story, one rooted firmly in Spanish and Native cultures. Española, the city in which I live,… Continue Reading

Notes From Nowhere

Yesterday on my way back from Tierra Amarilla, I picked up a hitchhiker on one of the pueblos. It was the middle of the day and he was wearing a tucked in, button-up shirt with a clearly visible ID badge clipped to the pocket. On his way to work, I figured. I was really flying down the highway and so came to a stop a considerable distance away. He seemed to take forever to catch up to the van. It took me back to my days as a younger man when I hitchhiked through northern New Mexico to Silver City… Continue Reading