Thursday, April 30, 2015


It’s a Latin word, so I likely cannot pronounce it properly. But I can translate it. It means “to cut around,” and from this comes our word, “Circumcision.”

This is a very unlikely topic for a blog post that does not even pretend to be medical or religious in nature. And if anyone asks why I selected it, I can only say that I’m not entirely sure. Nonetheless, it’s what I woke up thinking about, and the idea would not quit pestering me. Ergo, I will subject my readers to a discussion of this sensitive subject. (Is that an unintended double entendre?)

There are entire books on the  practice, so my pitiful efforts here will in no way be considered a scholarly treatise on the ritual. And in some cases, it is exactly that … a ritual. One performed for a religious purpose or to bind a specific cultural group together. And for the Jews, it was a physical sign of their covenant with God. In other cases, circumcision was performed for purposes of hygiene and health. For instance, to reduce the probability of HIV transmission during heterosexual activities. (It performs no such service for insertive homosexual engagements.) Wow, I’m way out on a limb I didn’t intend to climb.

According to the sources I read, the World Health Organization estimates about one-third of the world’s male population has undergone the operation of removing all or most of the prepuce from the  penis. This practice is most prevalent in the Muslim world, Israel, South Korea, the United States, and parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. However, it is relatively rare in Europe, Latin America, most of Asia, parts of Southern Africa, and Oceania. It is near-universal in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Historians estimate the practice to be over 15,000 years old with the first recorded evidence found in Ancient Egypt. It is mentioned in the Bible. While not explicitly cited in the Quran, it is considered essential to Islam.

That’s enough of that stuff. By now, I’ve figured out the real purpose of this post. To wit, the following exchange by two curious pre-teens.

Billy and Tommy, lifelong friends, were tired of playing, so they claimed swings on a play set and started talking. Billy, the more daring of the two, originated a round of jokes. After snickering over a half dozen exchanges, Billy told Tommy a new one he’d heard from his older brother. He sort of thought this would become one of his all-time favorites.
“Moses was standing there on the mountain leaning on his staff and looking up at the sky. He was talking to God, you see. So he says, ‘Let me get this straight. The Arabs get the oil, and we get to cut off the end of our what?’”
Tommy’s reaction wasn’t what his friend expected. His eyes went wide. “Oh, my gosh! I must be Jewish!”
As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of this quirky post.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I wish I Could Buy a Car This Way!

I’ve been thinking about buying a new Ford Fusion lately. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t need a new car and don’t intend to buy one. But, heck, who doesn’t dream about it from time to time?

If I were going to purchase a new automobile, I wish I could do it the way BJ Vinson, does it in my book, THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. The following scene takes place near the beginning of Chapter 20 on page 196.

I dressed and drove to a Chevrolet dealership on Lomas Boulevard NE. I’m a creature of habit. My first car had been a Chevy Impala, as had been my last. Unless the new ones had a serious defect, my next one would be, as well. With the insurance company check for my wrecked car in my pocket, I parked the rental Ford and went inside. Fred, the friend who had sold me the last two cars, was no longer with the agency, so I dealt with a total stranger. That might be a good thing. Fred and I knew each other’s tricks so well there wasn’t much to our negotiations. So instead of being disappointed, I considered dealing with a new salesman as an opportunity.
I walked straight to a silver Impala with gray trim. The man, who had introduced himself as George Uttley, trailed along in my wake. “I want this one.”
He took another look at the business card I’d handed him when we introduced ourselves. “No you don’t. Come with me.”
I followed him to the back lot where he stopped before a white, four-door clone of my wrecked Impala—except, of course, the new 2007s had undergone a major redesign.
“I see you’re a PI, so this is the baby you need. This Impala SS is powered by a new 303-horsepower 5.3 liter V8 engine, but it’s got what we call Active Fuel Management technology. That regulates between eight-cylinder and four-cylinder operation for improved fuel economy. She’s got the power when you need it and has pretty efficient gas consumption when you don’t.”
Uttley might prove a worthy opponent after all. He’d zeroed in on my needs with one look at my card. Point for him.
“The ‘07s have a tire-pressure monitor, a new 7.0 Generation OnStar system offering Turn-by-Turn navigation, 16-inch 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels, XM Satellite Radio, and leather-appointed seats as standard equipment.”
“I don’t need a sales pitch.” I needed to take him down a notch or two. “I’m going to buy a car. An Impala, in fact. Driven them for years, and I’m comfortable with them. It all boils down to the deal, Mr. Uttley.”
“Is there a trade-in?”
“Only in the form of an insurance check. Some joker totaled my car.”
“Are you financing with us, or do you bring your own?”
“My options are open.”
“So you want us to place the financing for you.”
“Possibly.” I glanced at the sticker, took in the optional equipment—this one was loaded—and started the dance. “I’d guess this was a custom order that fell through.”
Aha. He had a “give.” A wrinkle appeared between his eyebrows as he suppressed a frown. “Whatever the reason, it’s available. And it won’t stay around for long. Not a beauty like this.”
I took in the total at the bottom of the invoice and named a figure.
“But that’s below our costs,” he objected.
“It’s got some luxuries I don’t need. I’m willing to pay for them, but only at a discount. As far as the invoice price, you’ll more than recoup what I’m offering with your year-end bonus package from the manufacturer. Take it or leave it.”
“I’ll have to consult with my manager.”
            “Why don’t we both talk to him?”


Neat approach, huh? I hope you enjoyed the by-play between BJ and the car salesman. The next time I buy a car (providing there is a next time), I intend to use this approach. Given my past performance, I’d probably fumble the pitch and ask the Ford dealership salesman for a Chevrolet product.

As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the post.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

New Mexico ... What a Gorgeous State! Come visit us.

Anyone who has read my blogs knows I am in love with New Mexico. My books, the BJ Vinson series, extol the beauties of the land almost as much as they concentrate on the mysteries that occupy the protagonist. The Zozobra Incident describes Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and points between. The Bisti Business takes us to Taos and across the state to the Four Corners area around Farmington and Shiprock and the Bisti Wilderness area. The City of Rocks explores the southern and Boot Heel sections of the state. And that leaves so much not yet covered.

The purpose of this post is to reinforce the image of a fascinating state by showcasing only three of the state’s National Monuments. This is not a scholarly discussion of the sites, in fact there is amazingly little prose appended. I’ll depend upon the spectacular photographs to do the job. All are courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons. The brief descriptions are provided by Wikipedia, as well.

White Sands from Space

White Sands National Monument

This is a US National Monument located about 16 miles southwest of Alamogordo, covering a part of both Otero and Doña Ana Counties. We have all seen photos similar to the one on the left, but I suspect few of us have viewed the monument from space, as seen on the right. The area is in the Tularosa Basin, covering part of a 275 square-mile field of gypsum dunes … the largest in the world. Because gypsum is water-soluble, it is normally dissolved by rain and carried to the sea. The Tularosa Basin is mountain-ringed and has no outlet to the sea, so the dissolved gypsum is trapped. As water either sinks into the ground or evaporates from shallow pools, gypsum in a crystalline form called selenite is deposited on the surface. Well worth a visit!


Ute Mountain rising above the
Rio Grande del Norte

A roughly 240,000-acre area of public lands in Taos County was proclaimed a National Monument on March 25, 2013. It contains the Rio Grande Gorge (visited in The Bisti Business and in prior blog posts) and surrounding lands. The monument includes two BLM recreation areas: a portion of the Rio Grande which has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River, and the Red River Wild and Scenic River. The city of Taos is a logical starting point for a rewarding visit. Heck, Taos, itself, which is a noted Art Center, is worth the trip alone.


Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
This Bureau of Land Management supervised site is located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, near Cochiti. One passes the Santo Domingo Pueblo (recently renamed Kewa Pueblo) on the way to Tent Rocks, as it is commonly called. The area was created from layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited by a volcanic explosion within the Jemez Volcanic Field (also a subject of a previous blog post on the Valles Caldera) some 6 to 7 million years ago. The weathering and erosion of soft pumice and tuff from caprocks over the years has formed cones called Tent Rocks as high as 90 feet in height. There is a 1.2-mile trail leading through Slot Canyon to a lookout point where the rocks can be viewed from above. The park is located on the Pajarito Plateau between 5,700 and 6,400 feet above sea level. This site is open only in the day and does not permit dogs. The monument may be closed by order of the Governor of Cochiti Pueblo during tribal holy days when the pueblo does not permit the presence of outsiders.

Again, the photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia Commons (3).


I hope this whetted the appetite for all of you to visit us and experience our natural wonders and get a taste of the three dominant cultures of our state: Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo.

As always, thanks for reading. Let me know what you think of the post.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What Do You Think When You See …

Courtesy of Wickimedia Commons, the free media repository (Creative Commons License)

I came across Greg Willis's  spectacular photograph of the Reconstructed Kiva at Alcove House in the Bandelier National Monument and could not help but stop and study it. Certain emotions welded up out of me, making me wonder what others think, see, feel, smell, and taste when they view such a sight.

I’ll tell you what I see: A whole other culture as unfamiliar to most of us as life on Mars would be. Oh, we’ve seen photos and read snippets of history and believe we know all about those people. The Ancient Ones. The Anasazi. The Original People. But I sincerely doubt I would last a week living life on their level. True of most of us, I suspect.

My intent is not to recount the history of the Anasazi, but to explore images beyond what the camera caught. I see a people who -- for whatever reason -- abandoned their desert cities virtually en masse and took to the mountains and high canyons of the southwest to build homes and compounds and even whole towns in cliff caves and on rock shelves, bringing with them a culture that was already old.

When I look directly at the photo, I see what everyone else sees. A Kiva, a religious building, in the Jemez Mountains of modern-day New Mexico set against a truly dramatic backdrop of stone cliffs and a lush evergreen forest.

Let me tell you what else I see. I see a grandfather priest standing on top of the Kiva, shading his eyes as he watches his hunter-warrior son stride up the steep trail with a turkey over his shoulder, a kill to feed the family.

I envision a woman in an unadorned deerskin dress, her long black hair gathered on either side of her head by rawhide thongs. She holds a woven basket filled with ears of corn just retrieved from a nearby granary. She is smiling, pleased her husband has returned safely from a successful hunt.

I see a pre-teen boy and girl, bladder bags in hand, preparing to make their way down the long trail to reach the flowing stream on the floor of the canyon. Their task of descending and then climbing a vertical cliff is no less perilous than their father’s trek. But the family needs water.

I see laughter and contentment amid grumbling and discontent. I see generosity and greed lying side by side. I see pain. I see health. I see perils we will never know … just as we face dangers they could not imagine.

I smell the old man’s tobacco, probably smoked in the Kiva in a ritual manner, sweat from the warrior’s efforts, corn in the woman’s basket. I can almost  taste dust and pollen swirled aloft by mountain breezes and pungent, bitter pine needles. Even a hint of wild flowers.

I hear the labor of the man as he climbs the steep trail, the soft breath of the woman as she watches him approach, the excitement of the children. The lowing whisper of evergreens waving branches before  the wind. And from somewhere far, far away, comes the faint rush of water  over mountain boulders.

I see a family of human beings living a perilous life on the steep side of a craggy mountain. A vanished people who are claimed as honored, somewhat mythical ancestors by thousands of descendants.

Please write and tell me what you see:

As always, thanks for reading.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let’s Revisit THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT This Week

It’s been a while since we took a look at THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, so I thought we’d visit the novel again for this post. I had fun writing the book – and I’m convinced that’s the way it should always be for an author. It isn’t, of course. I’ve written books that were difficult and stressful in the birthing process. But not ZOZOBRA or THE BISTI BUSINESS, for that matter.
I chose the following passage (the opening of Chapter 7, Page 68) because we meet a new character at this point, and I like the way BJ looks at her. I also like the mental musings over a mural in his country club’s foyer that depicts Albuquerque’s founding in 1706 and the loss of the extra “A” in the city’s spelling. In my own head, I hear BJ toying with the word “foyer,” and believe him to be sophisticated enough to pronounce it “foi(a),” and plebeian enough to say “foi(yer).
At any rate, he’s just received a warning to drop the case he’s pursuing that includes a death threat, and it’s pissed him off. Let’s take a look.


Still steaming over some thug believing he could intimidate me, Thursday morning, I handed over the blackmailer’s envelopes and notes, along with Del’s fingerprint card to Gloria McInnes, who looked down her thin-bridged nose at me like an English blueblood. She wasn’t. She was born and raised in the little community of Algodones north of Albuquerque and was as common as shoe leather. I often wondered at the ribald jokes she must have endured after fifteen years of working in a place called K-Y Lab. The joint was named after its founders, Sol King and Jacob Young, not the water-soluble gel that prompted erotic reactions in countless giggling teenagers and horny young adults. I asked her to print me, as well, because I had handled the envelope before tumbling to what it was. I wanted her to test the documents for whatever forensic evidence they might contain.
“Hmm,” she ran a casual eye over the crude death threat. “Somebody’s getting personal.”
“Yeah, and that was his mistake. I’m going to get the bastard.”
“And I’ll bet you do. Okay, BJ, I’ll run a prelim for you, but I’ll need 48 hours. Of course, if I pick up DNA I’ll need some extra time, but I’ll give you what I can Monday afternoon.”
“I need it a little quicker.”
“Saturday’s the best I can do.”
“Didn’t know you were open on Saturday.”
“Just for you, sweetheart. Give me until about 6 o’clock that afternoon, okay?”
With that promise, I set off for 3301 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, which was, indeed, a Ship-n-Mail store in a strip mall of the kind architects call decorated sheds. There I ran into a stone wall. The thin-chested teenaged clerk refused, under penalty of law, he claimed, to reveal any information about the box holder. There was nothing to do but plan on spending Saturday hunkered down in the parking lot to wait for someone to pick up Del’s envelope.
Stymied for the moment, I headed for the country club. On the way, I used the hands-free phone to call Charlie and ask him to check out Belinda Gerard. He had nothing to report on the Royal Crest yet, but said he was working on it.
The summer day was chilled by the monsoon system that usually arrived in July or August to deliver a fair portion of our nine and a half inches of annual rainfall. As the thunder and lightning cooperated by hovering to the west over Mt. Taylor, one of the Navajos’ four sacred mountains, I braved the elements and swam for a while, hoping Paul would show up to relieve the youth occupying the lifeguard’s chair. He didn’t.
On my way out, I paused to view the mural in the club’s foyer. Done in the primitive style of Diego Rivera, it portrayed the founding of the Villa de Alburquerque in 1706 with the arrival of twelve families from the military compound of Bernalillo a few miles up the Rio Grande. It took us over 150 years to lose the second “R” in the city’s name. The dark earth tones of the mural failed to work their usual magic. My spirit remained troubled.
That changed when Paul answered my phone call to his dorm later that evening and agreed to come over. He showed up at my place around nine, and gave my morale a much-needed boost.

As always, thanks for reading.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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