Friday, February 27, 2015

Saguaros

A Drive through Saguaro National Park





I don't need a sign to tell me that I have crossed the state line into Arizona.  It's uncanny how the landscape changes.  These tall tree-like cacti line the highway almost immediately.  Majestic.  Sculptural.  Iconic.  The saguaro is the definitive symbol of the American Southwest.

The closer we got to Tucson, the more of them we saw.  Veritable forests of them.  It's not that easy to pull over when you're on a busy freeway so that's why we took the time to drive through the Saguaro National Park where cactus oglers like me have plenty of space to pull over and take pictures.  Everyone is driving 25 mph.  We are a happy bunch of camera-toting tourists, let me tell you!

The saguaro is sacred to the citizens of this great state.  It can grow up to 70 ft. tall and live to be 100 years old.  It is illegal to harm one of these giants in any way.  People need permits to even move one.  Arizona has named the saguaro blossom its state wildflower.  These white and yellow flowers appear between April and June and are quite lovely.  The plant is home to a variety of birds--the most special being the tiny elf owl.

I love, love, love that Nowhere Else I'd Rather Be feeling and I had it during that late afternoon drive through Saguaro National Park.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mimi Goes Military


I always like to take photographs of Mimi's colleagues in  museums.  She is very proud of them and their role in preserving history.  In honor of their contribution, she insisted on going military today.

Women weren't represented much at the General Patton Memorial Museum except for an exhibit of nurses in the military.  But that was the past.  Today is a whole different ball game.  Even though women have been involved in the U.S. military since 1775, their roles were limited to nursing, secretarial, cooking and cleaning.  In fact, they did not become official members of this group until 1948. Today they are equal partners with their male counterparts, filling every position available, even the top ones like Admiral and General.  Women are now allowed into combat.  West Point is seeing more and more women enrolling into that once exclusive all-male school.

I used to think that military fashion was a passing fad, but I've changed my mind.  There seems to be a version of these iconic uniforms on the runway every season.  Obviously, women in the military are here to stay and their numbers will only swell with time.  The jacket Mimi is wearing is considered a staple in Every Woman's wardrobe.  Worn with jeans or a pretty floral dress.  Worn by young girls and old ones, these jackets are everywhere!

And so today, Mimi and I honor these spirited and very brave women.  It can't be easy.  Prejudice and abuse still surround them.  They are truly heroic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

General Patton Memorial Museum

Offbeat Museums






All that's left of the World War II Desert Training Center in California's Mojave Desert is the ruin of the above chapel.  This is where General George Patton trained nearly one million men for combat and survival skills before sending them to North Africa.  He insisted on a minimum of six weeks training.  He lived among these men in primitive conditions and earned their loyalty and respect.  "This is the place God forgot," one of his men said in a documentary we viewed at the museum.
And this is why I have dubbed this post "Offbeat".  It is located in a godforsaken place, off Highway 10 on the Chiriaco Summit.
I confess it is the tank collection on the museum grounds that lured us in.  My travel buddy would love nothing more than to have a cannon in our front yard and a tank in the back!  His knowledge of these war machines would have impressed Old Blood and Guts himself.  Patton was an expert in this new technology and pushed hard for the military to use them.  At the training center, the above frames were fitted on top of jeeps to simulate tanks.
The museum is small and easily covered in an hour or two.  I watched the video first to refresh my memory of his command.  Like most people, all I knew of General Patton was from the 1970 movie starring George C. Scott.  I remember the foul language, the hot-headed temper and the controversy surrounding him.  The film does not cover up these negative aspects, but it does put things into perspective.  The man demanded excellence and because of it, he was one of the most successful commanders in U.S. military history.  His strategy was "Attack.  Attack.  And Attack."  He wanted to get this war over with and he wanted to win.

He succeeded.  He pushed the Germans out of North Africa and then sent them fleeing as his 3rd Army rolled through Europe.  He ended his career by liberating the men and women from the Buchenwald concentration camp.  One entire room at the museum is devoted to this final undertaking.  There are many photographs and one moving letter in which he writes:  We have lately been liberating slave camps and honestly words are inadequate to express the horror of those situations.

I had hoped the museum would be exclusively about Patton's interesting life like the singular focus of the presidential libraries, but it is a bit of a mishmash.  There's a little of this and a little of that from many different wars and many different military branches.  I have a feeling they have relied on donations and did their best to make it cohesive.  I found the above examples of "trench art" to be one of the more fascinating exhibits.  These pieces of art were created by those artistically-inclined men who found themselves living in the trenches of Europe during World War I.  They were sculpted out of shell casings.  I have never seen anything like this before.  Eerie.  Yet oddly beautiful.

I'm surprised that I keep thinking about this place.  Perhaps it was watching the news on the Summit against Terrorism this week on t.v.  The men came home from World War II and were given parades, speeches and a hero's welcome.  Goals were clear.  Patton and his determination to get this thing done and over with . . . well, it worked.  Wars are different now.  Not clear cut at all.  They drag on forever.  Now our war movies are about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide and depression.  What am I doing here?  This is not an uncommon question asked by every one of our soldiers these days.

How would Patton answer?  What would he do to get this thing done and over with?
  Because I'm certain he would.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On the Fringe

Jacumba, California, where these photographs were taken last week, is on the fringe of California.  It hugs the border between our state and Mexico.  That ghastly fence is only a few yards away, scarring the landscape with its serpentine sprawl.  It is one of the oddest, and yet most endearing places I have ever been.  Amid the ruins of old buildings from the 1920's like the bathhouse above, is the new Jacumba Hot Springs Hotel with its pool, sauna, hot tub and fabulous dining room.  But not much else!  We were definitely on the fringe of society (and loving every minute of it).  Ralph, our waiter, called me "Madame" and my travel buddy, "Monsieur".  He cooks, cleans, waits tables "and anything else that needs to be done around here."  

I laughed when I realized I was wearing my long blue sweater trimmed with fringe.  We could tell by the eccentric art installations around town and the colorful graffiti that this was a place for outsider artists, vagrants and misfits.

On the fringe of . . . . well, the ends of the earth!





Sharing with friends at Patti's Visible Monday.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Blythe Intaglios

I have not yet seen the Nazca Lines in Peru, but they are high on my list of future travel destinations.  However, a couple of years ago I stumbled upon a documentary on t.v. which showcased very similar geoglyphs, AND, unbelievably, they were in my own backyard.  Last weekend, my travel buddy and I were in the area and set out to find them.

These prehistoric giant figures can be found 15 miles north of Blythe, California, on the California/Arizona border.  In 1931, a pilot flying from Hoover Dam to Los Angeles, spotted them.  As you can see from the old photo below, they are best viewed from the air, but no one has taken advantage of this unique opportunity.  They are easily accessible by car, although the road is bumpy and full of potholes.  Even so, they are very impressive.
They were designed by Native Americans to honor the Creator (the human figures) and his assistants (the mountain lion and other animals) who helped with this monumental task.  Hundreds of figures once dotted the desert landscape.  Now, there are only six.  These particular geoglyphs (or intaglios) were formed by scraping away the black rocks to expose the white desert pavement beneath.

So if you can't make it to Peru, come to California instead!  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mimi Wears Faux Fur II

I packed up all my winter clothes this week except this reversible faux fur vest.  Despite record breaking heat, I remain optimistic the temps will still drop a bit and we will experience a March Miracle with lots of rain.  For now, a little bit of warmth is all I need for the evenings and this vest is perfect for that.

Mimi thinks so, too!