murals

The Mother Road to Tucumcari

India’s most holy river is called “Mother Ganga.” America’s most holy highway is called “The Mother Road.” Route 66 is the highway equivalent of Old Glory and the American equivalent of the Silk Road. Between 1926 and 1985, it linked Chicago and Santa Monica for vacationers and every kind of itinerant during a period of westward migration. It’s been a symbol of American freedom and hope in some of our best literature, like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  

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How I Learned to Love Albuquerque

At first, I wasn’t crazy about Albuquerque. Miles and miles of strip malls, empty lots, parks with highway roar. Although the city’s Old Town is atmospheric, most of the stores sell junk, and the Old Town’s “best” café served me a greasy chili rellano with a side of canned spinach. Wasn’t canned spinach banned in 1959?

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Navajo Nation

I left Arizona on Sunday, half-safe after my first Covid shot, and headed east to Monument Valley in Southern Utah. If you haven’t been to Monument Valley, you’ve probably seen it in films. It was first featured in “Stagecoach,” 1939, with John Wayne. Since then, the Valley’s spectacular sandstone formations have been the setting for more than a dozen classics, including “Thelma and Louise” and “Forest Gump.”

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Greater Las Vegas is Greatest Las Vegas

Mural from East Fremont neighborhood in downtown Las Vegas.

When I was nine, my dad had to attend a convention in Las Vegas and decided to take the rest of us with him. At the time, Las Vegas didn’t have kid-oriented attractions, but it was thrilling for us anyway. We stayed in a real hotel with high ceilings, ate BLTs for the first time, and called room service for ice cream. Since then, I think of Las Vegas as a place to avoid, and I only stopped there this week because it’s on the way (to wherever I am going, not sure actually). During this visit, my hotel was very nice, my Thai take-out was very greasy, and I learned that Las Vegas has some very cool non-casino attractions.

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Barrio Guadalupe, San Miguel’s Wild Child

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, is one of my favorite places on earth. The city’s historic center is  gorgeous and walk-able and friendly. On any day, you are likely to find parades and processions and music. But, partly because of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city’s historic center follows an elaborate set of rules…. how you can decorate your building, the colors you can paint your building, the kinds of signs you can hang, and the kind of noise you can make, among other things. It’s ordered and traditional.

But a few blocks from the historic center in barrio Guadalupe, the rules don’t apply….

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Two Muses in Athens

I wasn’t sure how I would feel being back in Athens. It is a place of such emotional contrasts for me — its wonderful history and the warmth of the Greeks alongside the tragedy that comes with a collapsed economy, not to mention the heat and pollution of summer. But arriving in Athens on Wednesday, I felt a sweet familiarity. Athens was a partner during the life-changing time I was here among a community of refugees.  Continue reading

Cielito Lindo, Mexico

“Cielito Lindo” is that song we all know with the refrain “ay ay ay ay….”  I heard it every night in Guanajuato, as the three part harmony of local singers and happy visitors wafted up the hill to my house in Cerro Del Cuarto. “Cielito lindo” is a term of endearment that will always remind me of my six weeks in Mexico, where I leaned a little Spanish and did a little writing and, most important, met a lot of wonderful people.     Continue reading

La Dulce Vida Mexicana

I have been in Guanajuato at Casa Palma for almost a month now. The house is beautiful, with walls of tiles and murals, and a veranda that offers a view of the city. There is something special here, the colors and the kindness and, of course, the sounds.  Guanajuato is the noisiest city on earth! But it’s the good kind of noise. Dogs and roosters, music, children laughing, music, fire works, dogs, church bells, goats, whistles, sheep, and music. More music. Dogs. Continue reading