Highway 60: Four Days in the American Interior: Day Two: Socorro, NM to Hereford, TX

I really should get started earlier.

(For Day One, go here.)


There’s a supermarket across the way.  A local outfit, with the aisles a bit bedraggled, as these rural places usually are. No olive bar, international cheese spread or charcuterie, but a couple of bucks and tax gets you plenty of hot coffee and glazed deliciousness. Bear claw and a maple log. This stuff just doesn’t exist anywhere outside the U.S.

Sit on the porch, put your feet up. Retire in Socorro?

A guy, white, scraggly, bearded, dressed in layers, probably homeless, is talking to himself sitting at one of the tables. The Latina serving me rolls her eyes. I ask if he’s a problem. No, she says, but the smell. ?Que va a hacer? What can you do?  I remember the week before, chatting with a convenience store clerk in Santa Cruz, California, who was terrified of the crack head who hung out in the parking lot. She’d seen him decline over a year or so, from a hippie pothead type, to a hallucinatory shambles uttering threats to everyone and no one.

Even here, I think. Best to breakfast in the room.

Time for a quick look at Socorro. Back to the square. The town is named for the succor the local Indians gave the first group of Spaniards staggering out of the nearby desert in 1598.   A little less than a hundred years later the Pueblo Indians revolted and Spanish rule did not recommence until 1815. Socorro’s core retains a very nineteenth century look. I n an unexpected segue from Fort Apache the day before, it turns out the Socorro was the home of Elfego Baca, hero of a Disney series for TV in the 50s, “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca.”

Robert Loggia as Elfego Baca, New Mexico lawbreaker turned sheriff,and later lawyer advocate for the Hispanic community. With Audrey Dalton. Anette Funicello also played a character named "Chiquita." Cringe!. Still, despite color blind casting and goofy accents, the series was the first to bring a Mexican- American hero to a nationwide audience.

There’s enough in the area to keep one busy for days; I figure I have about fifteen minutes to spare. Some of the buildings around the square date to the old municipio. I don’t know why people say history is boring.  Look at a Spanish town in North America, like this one, or Sonoma in Northern California, and you are looking at a Roman colonia.

The building style  combines adobe and timber, of which there is a good supply in the nearby mountains, reminding me of Patzcuaro Iin the pine forests of Michoacan. Government offices are in new buildings off the square and the old places are occupied by lawyers, accountants, and a cafe advertising live acoustic music and poetry readings.

Stopping the wars in Socorro. Somehow, not expecting Occupy Socorro anytime soon.

Adobe of the desert Southwest combined with mountain pine.

A stretch of interstate is unavoidable as 60 joins it for a few miles running north before heading due west again. I don’t mind because this part runs along the Rio Grande valley, the river bottoms glorious in color against the low austere mountain.  , At a rest stop to get rid of the morning coffee I find a marker for the Acomila Buttes nearby. These formed a choke point on the El Camino Real(Royal Road) along the river and was a place where caravans were frequently ambushed by the Apache.

There is that about New Mexico: it seems to exist in different times simultaneously. One can feel the past here. It is part of America,and the Southwest, but there is something in the air,and the light, that sets the state apart in both space and time.

I had been in the state once before, in 71. It was October then, too, and the autumn color reminds of that time. A college drop out, waiting for my draft call up, I took to the road, uncertain of why or where I wanted to go, and spent a couple of months in the state, hitching, sometimes sleeping rough, doing a bit of day labor here and there.

Somewhere in a river valley, ranch homes along the banks sheltered by groves of crimson Lombardy poplar, and then a town. I got out at a Dairy Queen. The place was very quiet. The social tide of the 60s had left this place alone, but the war had taken the young men. A man  asked me where I was going, and when I told him no place in particular, he asked if I could stand a bit of work. A neat fellow with brilliantined hair, plaid shirt, jeans and a string tie. I felt disheveled next to him as I climbed into his truck.

Looking north from Highway 60 going west to Mountainair

He put me up for a couple of days. His own son son was overseas. I wasn’t of a lot of use, but his wife fed me, and the work made me not quite a guest, but less than a beggar.

Acomilla Buttes

After shifting a heap of firewood, he put me to work scraping and sanding the walls of the house, which he intended to paint.   Pleased with my first few hours work, I looked up to see him regarding it. His cheek twitched, and the toothpick always in his mouth shifted from one side to another. I knew I had to start over.

It would be a great story if I could write how that old boy taught me to rope and ride, but a couple of days was about all he wanted me around for. I’m still meticulous on surface preparation. I’m not sure why he took me in.   After supper I was invited to watch the news on the big Magnavox in the parlor. They were particularly intent when a story came on from the war zone in Viet Nam.

Roy’s not anywhere near there,” he said. And the woman smiled and freshened my ice tea.  I slept in the bunk house. The place must have been more active once, but now there were just the bed frames with rolled up mattresses.

60 to the west towards the-40

After two days, the rancher took me back to the Dairy Queen. We shook hands and then he handed me two twenties. I had never thought about pay and one would have been more than fair.

Never mind, you earned it he said”, and drove away.

60 East All mine in both directions

Right on 60, and I am alone on a glorious two lane blacktop skirting mountains and heading gently up. A storm brewing.  Stop to take some pictures, and there is not a car in any direction.  What a country this is, that can build and maintain these perfect roads that so few will take.

Alone. No one coming in either direction, no sound save the rising wind.

Hippie crashes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The Mescaleros, pine fresh in the morning, the plain of Alamogordo crimson in dusk.

Late one night, a state trooper stopped and asked for my ID. Perhaps no older than I, he put on an air of sternness, but as he looked through my passport ( I had no license) and saw the Asian stamps, he couldn’t contain his curiosity.  He took me forty miles down the road just to hear some of my stories of far countries, and allowed he’d travel one day too.

The trooper dropped me off in Roswell, where I washed dishes for a while. Met a girl there and when she had satisfied her curiosity over the California boy, and I knew that I couldn’t ever be from there, moved on.

Finally, I see someone.  A fellow riding a grass cutting machine, trimming the verge. Not only is the road surface perfect, but the shoulders are manicured. You have to have lived in very different countries to realize what a miracle this is.

Picked up one day by two middle aged cowpunchers with all their possessions in a station wagon, suitcases, saddles and tack, driving hopefully off to a new gig. Left me at the side of the road when they turned off, with the gift of a half pint of bourbon, and best wishes for my time in the service. They had been in Korea.

Taos in the rain. Braided Indian women selling baskets, kids in jacked up chevies cruising the slick streets.

Maybe looking for trouble, thumbing around with my huge  white kid ‘fro and Guatemalan quetzal jacket, but treated with great kindness by people who seemed to find some small happiness in helping me on my way,

When I tired of these wanderings and with winter setting in, I went back to California, where an induction notice had arrived, followed soon by another notice canceling it. Back to real life, finishing school, work, and the long road that brought me back here this morning, once again, to the autumn Rio Grande on a New Mexico morning.

I speak a silent  thank you to New Mexico, for what it gave me then, and is now.    I hope all those people’s lives have been or were full, and happy. I hope the girl married well; I hope Roy came home o.k.

Salinas Puebos National Monument New Mexico

Driving on, the question arises:what it is it about so many rural folk that leads them to collect, and display intheir front yards,large amounts of mechanical junk. The houses I see are surrounded by broken equipment, and lots of battered trailers and mobile homes. These are perhaps, still in use as migrant housing. The ranches are not the prosperous showcases one sees in California.

The map shows that the Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument is not far off my way. There are three sites, Abo, Quarai and Gran Quivara. Gran Quivara I’ve known about since my boyhood interest in archeology, and it is just a little too far off the route. Abo, however, is just before the the town of Mountainair on 60.

Abo Mission ruins

Buttress use unique to Abo

There’s a small ranger station. The ranger is out to make his rounds and waves as he drives off. There is a light dusting of snow on the red rock ruins. Settled by the Indians as far back as 1300, The Spanish Franciscans established a mission there around 1620, but only stayed for around fifty years. Historic American Buildings Survey,
Engineering Record, Landscapes Survey Library of Congress says this about the architecture:”The Mission is notable for the construction method using buttresses to support relatively thin walls, a method used in European church architecture. San Gregorio de Abo is the only example of the use of this method for a seventeenth-century New Mexican church.”

I have the place to myself. The starkness of the ruined walls against the perfect cobalt sky is overwhelming.Time weighs heavily, all the vanished unknown lives. But, I see here is one, that is happily memorialized. Don Federico, Fred Sisneros whose family once owned the site, spent his declining years caring for the site as “the nation’s oldest park ranger.” His family had once owned the land,and later deeded it to the state. This reminds me again of eh ancient roots of the Hispanic settlement in New Mexcio. Descendants of old families like the Sisneros proudly, and accurately, say that their ancestors predated the United States. Another branch of the family runs Casa de Abo nearby, producing sculptures and landscape ornaments into the New Mexican style.

Grave of Fred Sisneros, "the Nation's oldest Park Ranger."

On to Mountainair and as the road rises it begins to snow. I am delighted. It is a light fall, not enough to close the roads, but enough for me to see New Mexico in winter as well as autumn.

Train Station, Mountainair New Mexico

Railside business in Mountainair. Probably a feed and grain outfit once,now plastic injection molding, You have to hand it to anybody making a go of something in a tiny place like this,

The town is a small place, and looks as if it were never too much more than a whistle stop. There is an old Santa Fe station, closed off to the public, a maintenance center now. Work, I’m sure, is scarce around here. Lucky is he – or she – who is a railroader these days.

There ‘s time for me to make Quarai and I head out of town as the road quickly descends into a nearly featureless plain, now white, totted at great distances by homesteads. Then the way turns north and east and rises again.   Of course. The settlement would be sited on higher ground both for defense and access to, and control of, water from the mountains. There is a town, or hamlet, not large enough to warrant a sign, and

Shaffer Hotel, Mountainair

Quarai mission ruins

Massive walls, six feet wide in places

seventeenth century.

The  nearby town of Manzano (Pop. 54)  has a church, and a churchyard, as well as an automotive graveyard that appears to date from the 30s. Again, that tendency of the rural poor to collect junk.

There’s time for a quick look at the main street in Mountainair. An old hotel that has a coffee shop going, warm and inviting. The icon of every small town where a kid woke up and said I’m getting out of here one day. A

Downtown Moutainair

defunct Greyhound station, a local bank long gone, a John Deere place still in business.

Back to 60 . I’m following the railroad now, one train after another. There is sometime about seeing a pair of diesels pulling a long string of cars across a western landscape. It speaks of power, the raw energy that bound these immense vistas with steel.

The train are different from those I saw a child. Boxcar Willie would find no shelter, as boxcar has almost vanished, Instead, containers on flats, RORO, chemical carriers, livestock cars. And the caboose must have disappeared decades ago. The containers are all Asian: COSCO, Han IL, Yonsei. Gone too is the variety, the many logos that a child would count to while away the long hours on a cross country drive: Rock Island, B&O, Erie, Great Northern, Burlington, Northwestern, Rio Grande, Union Pacific, Wabash and so many more, so that a train bore emblems of every region of the country, a rolling history of railroad commerce for the US and Canada as well.

The Santa Fe, my childhood favorite, because it was the line that brought grandparents from back east, survives and thrives. The Chesapeake has long been CSX which just isn’t very evocative. There are occasional Canadian National and Pacific Cars. Still, the lines of cars form horizon to horizon still and thrill I wonder if this is what rolls during a time of low growth, what must it be like when times are good?

Humans and vehicles at rest

Manzano church

The snowy horizon extends in every direction with a few ranches until I reach the town of Willard. I’m hungry, and the roadside Willard Cafe looks like it might be just the thing. Now here it’s time for a bit of shameful confession. Like so many coastals, I know my fellow Americans from the interior more as types seen in the movies., than as real people I might actually enjoy meeting.

There is a large bar and games area, empty at this time of day, and a small, cozy lunch room. One table is occupied by four bearded guys in billed caps and camos. In the movies, they would be militia types, ready to kick some urban ass. Perhaps they are hunters, or just guys from around here who like to dress that way.

A friendly blond waitress seats me, bringing me my ice tea and a menu along with chips and salsa. The place specializes in deep fried Serrano Chiles. A green Chile combo comes a taco, beans, and sopapilla, New Mexican fry bread. It strikes me that on every table is a dispenser of Karo syrup. I haven’t seen that since I was last in the south. But then Texas is not that far, and there were Confederate militias in New Mexico.

The food is just right for a winter day, hearty, , spicy, but not fiery, satisfying for its earthiness. At the next table are two men and women, an Anglo and Hispanic of each gender. Government workers from different agencies, County, Forestry, Police, sharing lunch. The conversation switches back and forth between Spanish and English, everybody bilingual, from inter-agency topics to local gossip and family news. Their easy camaraderie adds a warmth to the room already glowing with the aroma of good food.

Lisa, owner operator of the Willard Cafe. Original exterior wall in the background

The room clears and I linger to chat with the waitress when she esquires as to my enjoyment of the food, which I am happy to verify. Her name is Lisa, and in fact, she is the owner. Lisa tells me that she’s worked there since she was sixteen, off and on, and after forays to Denver and Albuquerque, came home, and about six years ago when the owners wanted to retire they offered to sell he business to her. It hasn’t always been easy, but in addition  rhinsto the local clientele, she has fans from road trips, stopping by like I did, to return again and again. One son helps her, another is up in the Northern part of the state, installing wind turbines. There are big wind farms in the area, and for a while, the crews brought in a lot of business before they moved on. Her son was able to get on part time, did well, and was taken up for training and permanent hire. Her pleasure in the life she has made for herself and her kids in her hometown, where here isn’t much, is warming.

Lunch at the Willard cafe. Local custom seems to be to drench the sopapilla with Karo. Passed on that.

Back on the road, and the terrain is in a long decline, that continental slope, which I can see in the rail line that tilts to the horizon.  This is the Belen cut-off, an Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe route that once sowed settlements across this empty land, and I come to the remains of one such at Yeso.  There must be some people around as there is a Porta-Post office, but I don’t see anyone, and the businesses that once sold travelers cokes and gas are in ruins.  The trains remain, chuffing along, backing up and moving on, framed by half fallen walls. 

General store, Yeso, New MexicoPost Office, Yeso

One building must have been constructed very early on, and by someone with little capital.  The Overton Merc. Co, which I would take to have a general store is built of undressed stone, and without visible mortar, yet it is in better shape than the frame and plaster buildings nearby. (For more on Yeso, see City of Dust, a fine blog by a New Mexican, fascinated by vanished roadside America.  Eloquent writing and photography)

Then it’s another twenty miles or so to Fort Sumner.  Rolling country, better watered, a bit more populated.  This is horse country.  It is always good for the soul to see horses watering, trotting about open pasture of an afternoon as the light softens and  catches their colors.

Fort Sumner straggles along the Pecos River, and that very name is enough to evoke a another 50s series, Judge Roy Bean.  Bean operated much further down the river, in southwest Texas, but I am certainly in an important site for Old West history.

Fort Sumner is where billy the Kid is buried.  Probably, but exactly where is subject to some dispute.  As an article in Roadside America details , the gunman and psychopath  William Bonney, aka Blily the Kid, is most likely resting somewhere in the cemetery next to the Billy the Kid Museum outside of town, but whether is directly under the often filched tombstone is another question.

The museum, which looks more like what my dad used to call “tourist traps,” as he refused to stop despite all our begging to see whatever lurid attraction we were passing, was closed for the season, and directed interested parties back to a branch in town.  Had it been open, I would have tarried.  At one time I affected some sense of post modern irony in enjoying such  places, but now I’m ready to admit, I just like them.  There is also, a few hundred yards on, a memorial and exhibit to some atrocity by the government against the local Indians.  I’ve decided that I want to sleep in Texas that night, so content myself with some quick pics, and move on

Fort Sumner attractions

The low hills around Fort Sumner disappear, and I’m moving towards the Texas panhandle.  On the last elevation I’ll see until I get well  into  Oklahoma,  to the north, a troop of wind turbines claws the sky, skeletal in the fading glow as more weather moves in.

Billy the Kid's headstone. Grave...maybe

A bit of four lane and then Clovis, the concrete mushroom of the Air base control tower to the right,  gas and motel strip thorough town,   The first grain elevators.  Entering the great agricultural heartland, the North American granary that goes form here to Canada and all the way to the Alleghenies.


State borders may be imaginary lines on a map, bu the differences are very real. Crossing in to Texas, which is just a matter of crossing the street in Clovis, from New Mexico it is immediately clear that I am in a far more prosperous place and one with very different economic organization. Instead of the small ranches of eastern New Mexico, very Big Ag.  I can smell cows immediately and even in the gathering darkness  there are black spills of them all across the plain on both sides of the road. Oil too.  Now and then a hissing injection well lit up like a Christmas tree.

Have I been away so long that I have no perspective, so that that what seems wondrous to me is merely ordinary?  Were communication masts always so tall,  rising hundreds of feet, with their summits even blurred by low lying mist?. There are many of them, the cherries of their warning lights blinking off in a line to the distance.   Some last light escapes from the setting sun already obscured behind an approaching storm front and the guy wires, gossamer with the last light  flicker like lines of fairy dust.

The towns spread light crossways to the darkened highway like the elliptical discs of distant galaxies. And they are like worlds, with their own histories, matrices of relationships of blood and commerce, that l, as would a voyager through space en route to a distant destination, can only wonder about.

Bovina. You have to love these names.   And up ahead, Hereford. Sure enough, a black and white cow on a plinth announces the town, Hereford, Deaf smith County county seat. Smith, the man who took the last letter out of the Alamo to General Houston, was someone I learned about in those long ago fifties popular juvenile histories.

A good place to stop.  Another Indian run motel, south of forty a night, with a liquor store and Mexican restaurant across the street and a McD’s that will serve for  breakfast.

Taqueria Jalisco has more than tacos, a near full house, and friendly, pretty waitresses. 

Chile verde at Taqueria Jalisco, Hereford, TX

Did I want corn or flour tortillas?  I explain that this is a treat for me, there not being any real Mexican food where I live so I’m having trouble making this simple decision.  Have both she says and I do with my Chile Verde.  Tender pork shoulder simmered for hours in in a piquant green sauce based on jalapeno, tomatillo, cilantro and  other goodies.  Real beans, no healthy cuisine nonsense, cooked with lard.  Sides of red salsa and escabeche to make it all even hotter.

As I pay the bill, a Sikh family stops in to pick up a take out order.

For dessert, I grab a big Stella at the liquor store. The low prices and variety of alcohol everywhere are amazing.  You have to live in in Asia  to appreciate it. On the cable, talk shows on cattle futures, ads for irrigation piping, and a show for women horse owners, all the little girls who grew up reading “Black Beauty,” and here in Texas actually get their own horses.

Drifting off, thinking of the day past and the next, it’s like life: you can’t know if what’s ahead will be as good, or better or worse than what’s past until  you move on.


Hamza Kashgari Returned to Saudi Arabia: Where the 7th Century and 1984 Converge in the 21st Century

Malaysian authorities have deported a Saudi journalist accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a tweet. –BBC(12 February 2012)

In typical Beeb style, this is a rather measured statement of what actually happened.  And that is this: A young man exercising speech rights enshrined in the U.N. human rights convention, but not recognized anywhere  in the Islamic world, was seized while in lawful transit en route to a third country,  by Malaysia’s “soft” theocratic state, and turned over to agents of world’s most repressive religious regime for rendition to Saudi Arabia, with the collusion of an international policing agency answerable to no one.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia's glittering gateway. I plan on staying away.

And now Hamza Kashgari, journalist and blogger from Jeddah, awaits retribution for his thought crime. It is interesting to not that Kashgari means “of Kashgar” a city in Southwest China, once known as a great caravan terminus in Chinese Turkestan. There has been great diversity within Islam, but the Wahhabi/Salafi/Muslim Brotherhood assault is bent on destroying these differences in the name of the  suffocating orthodoxy challenged by the young Saudi.

Malaysia acted in response to a “red notice” issued by Interpol at tthe request of Saudis.

The Guardian notes :

In response to past criticisms of the red notice system, it has said: “There are safeguards in place. The subject of a red notice can challenge it through an independent body, the commission for the control of Interpol’s files (CCF).”

One can only imagine the cost of the legal resources that would need to be brought to bear to achieve any result.  Mr. Kashgari will not have the benefit of civil society organizations that would be able to help in some societies.

These “safeguards” were of no avail to the 22 year old Saudi. It makes me want to weep.  Can you imagine how this boy felt, his young life in ruins behind him, but still with hope before him, as he flew east?

Then he lands in  KLIA (Kuala Lumpur), transiting to New Zealand, and the  grim face of Islamism greets him.  Perhaps his hope continued to flicker for the few hours he was held, hoping that a world outcry would save him.

Human rights organizations did shout his case out to a largely heedless world, but those who could have helped, the foreign offices of Europe, and the  United States State Department were, and of this writing, still are, silent.

How he felt on the flight “home” is too awful to contemplate.

I spit on “moderate Malaysia.”

This is the face Malaysia presents to the world. Not a hijab in sight when, in fact, most Malaysian Muslim women have taken up the head scarf since the 1980s.

Mr. Kashgari’s remarks would

Malasian Pas(Islamist Party) members demonstrate. This is more representative of current developments in Malaysia.

seem innocuous to those unfamiliar with the parameters defining blasphemy in Islamic jurisprudence:

In the first, Kashgari declared “I have loved the rebel in you, that you’ve always been a source of inspiration to me,” but then added: “I do not like the halos of divinity around you. I shall not pray for you.” He followed that with a second tweet, “I will say that I have loved aspects of you, hated others, and could not understand many more.”

In a third, Kashgari said: “I shall not bow to you.  I shall not kiss your hand. Rather, I shall shake it as equals do, and smile at you as you smile at me. I shall speak to you as a friend, no more.”

Reminiscent of one seeking a personal relationship with Jesus, but given the unquestioning regard of Muslim believers for the Islamic prophet, which only misses being fairly termed  idolatry in that images of this “Perfect Man” are forbidden, the Saudi blogger’s tweets were enough to bring the wrath of the entire Kingdom, from royals to ordinary citizens.

The twats at Twitter should say something about it, but don’t count on it, as they have picked up a stack of Saudi Petrodollars recently

The Red Notice system has been the subject of abuse before, as in this 2004 Congressional Record discussion of bogus notices issued by Uzbekistan. What we have here is a system that allows repressive governments to pursue their nationals for crimes that would not be offenses in free countries, to suppress dissent, and purse their rulers’ personal vendettas..

During World War II, Interpol, then headquartered in Vienna, was headed by such SS luminaries as as Ernst Kaltenbrunner and Reinhard Heydrich.  Now based in Lyon, France,  it is headed by Ronald K. Noble, Clinton era U.S. Justice Department Undersecretary for Enforcement, and head of the Department’s “Waco Administrative Review Team.”  In other words, there is more than a whiff of sympathy for coercive statism in the agency’s history.

And it is this  that made Kashgari’s apprehension possible, even certain.

He fled his native country with thousands quite literally calling for his head.accusing him of apostasy.  This is no surprise as, although the Koran itself does not state a temporal punishment for the crime, a widely accepted  hadith (saying of Islam’s prophet Muhmmad) does:

Whoever changed his (Islamic) religion, then kill him” Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:84:57

Muhammad himslef was no mean axeman, at least by proxy, as the story of the Jewish Banu Qurayza, among other traditions,  will attest.

While Mr.Kashgari did not deny Muhammad as Allah’s messenger,  mere mockery of Allah or the prophet can constitute apostasy. The journalist is in jeopardy of great harm, not the least of which is time in a Saudi jail.  Yet, I do not think his life will be taken.  The case  does have some visibility, and the suave spokesmen the Saudis send to the West will, one

Adel A. Al-Jubeir, current Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

hopes,counsel moderation for the sake of good PR.

A Saudi beheading. A regular Friday crowd pelaser at "Chop Square" in Riyadh. Plenty more where this came from: perennial favorites on YouTube

Rather, Hamza Kashgari’s fate will recall that of Winston  Smith in 1984  Some schools of Islamic jurisprudence allow the apostate to recant and thus avoid death.  This is the line taken against Christians accused of apostasy from Islam by Iran.  Remember how in Orwell’s book, Winston, after his torture and breaking, was allowed his physical freedom, for a while.

One can almost wonder is Kashgari’s flight towards the western world was like the way the Inner Party played with its victims, before erasing them. Kashgari, too will learn to love Big Brother, or at least to convince all around that he does so.  Islam is more merciful than Ingsoc, in that it requires only outward submission for survival in this world, leaving damnation for the secret denier to the next.

Nevertheless, the end result is the same: “a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”


What you can do:

Contact your foreign office.

Contact the Saudi Embassy in your country.

Express your anger to Malaysian representation in your country.

Contact Tourism Malaysia and let them know you will not be visiting Malaysia as a result of their country’s complicity in the Kashgari affair.  This page provides contact information for Malaysian tourism promotion offices in various countries.

For the U.S.  go here to email Secretary Clinton

or call: 202-647-4000

Email Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington

Telephone: (202) 342-3800

Information/Press Office: (202) 337-4076

Malaysian Embassy, Washington

Email: malwashdc@kln.gov.my

Telephone (202) 342-3800

Sign on line petitions.  Here is one, and there are many more.

Tweet and Facebook Kashgari’s story.  Use the links in this piece, or find your own, but spread the news.  Talk to your friends and family.

HIghway 60: Three Days in the American Interior: Day One: Phoenix, AZ – Socorro, NM

Last October I had the opportunity to spend three days on the road in the U.S. taking one daughter’s car from Arizona to her sister in Indiana.  As an expatriate, and someone who has fancied himself a world traveler, I’ve spent a good deal of my life seeing what there is outside our borders. Of course, I’ve been to many the major cities, know my native state, California, well,and have seen some of the big draws that bring visitors from around the world -Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier and so on, Since I was a kid in the 50s and got interested in rocks, Indians, archeology, the way a lot of boys did then through books written just for them, I’ve had a hankering to visit the Southwest, another region that has a following world wide, so I was excited about my passage through Arizona and New Mexico. Beyond these, a  previous trip to Fort Wayne had opened my mind to the states so dismissively labelled “flyover” by us coastal types.

What this trip showed me was that America is vast, not only in size and population, but in the infinity of natural features, untouched areas, regional variations in architecture and food, in a word that trope, diversity, means something here. The homogenization of America is much overstated.

I was pleased when a friend told me my pictures from the trip made America look exotic. What he did not know was that I did not have to “make” the country look exotic using photographers’ tricks or a particular vision, but instead merely snapped what I saw to the best of my limited equipment and even more restricted ability, both technical and artistic.


  1. Intriguingly unusual or different; excitingly strange:

America is full of the exotic

And my expatriate eye helped me see the wonder in the familiar. “I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
Thomas Wolfe,
You Can’t Go Home Again

Sometimes I shouted out in joyful wonder at what I saw; at others near tears I quiet gratitude for what we have.

Day One Phoenix, AZ to Socorro NM

Dawdling, I make a late start, around nine, having been warned that this is the height of rush hour. Arizonans, apparently make an earlier start than that, as traffic is flowing smoothly. It is a lovely morning, a few tufts of cloud here and there, but the sky overwhelmingly a desert blue, There is no hint of haze or brown smudge on the horizon,and I reflect on how clean the air is in America.

Route 60 is here for a few miles part of I-10, but at the Superstition Freeway exit, I part company with the interstate, and will stay off for the next two days, with the exception of a few miles in New Mexico.

In Superior, AZ, a hint of the hidden gardens of Andalucia.

Closed Superior Copper Co. mine and smelter

The masonry chimney rising to the blue sky. Historic in this context doesn’t mean anything important ever happened, but that there will be a downtown with old buildings and small businesses trying to find a niche in today’s

Remember high schools with windows? So different from the supermax facilities we build today.

Sprouse-Reitz five&dime, once a mainstay of western small towns

economy. This is seen all over the country,

Copper may be returning to the Superior Area as enabling legislation makes its way through Congress, and local pro job people and environmentalists square off. In the meantime, Superior is a picturesque place, with many shuttered small businesses of a very Old West flavor, and a few that someone is attempting to revive. It’s mid day, but there is almost no one in the streets, and the only place open seems to be the post office.

The town is dominated by an eroded peak, Apache Leap. Its economic history

Apache Leap

is encapsulated in a series of murals, which while appearing ancient, date from the 80s. The mines closed in 1981, and is only staffed by a security post, The murals are in the political and

Rivera inspired style I’m familiar with from San Francisco’s Mission District. One sees miners of a distinctly mestizo cast( and perhaps Apache as well). The word “Aztlan” which has come to represent Mexican irredentism, is displayed in large, but flaking letters. Whether these murals were a protest at the mine closing, or a simple memorial to a lost way of life, the militant spirit behind them is no where evident in Superior today.

Aztlan, the "Lost Territories."

Wednesday, noon, Superior, AZ

The most notable structure is McPherson’ s Magma hotel, dating from 1912, which once hosted business men and politicians, but is now derelict, with the structure on the National Register of Historic places, but there are no plans to renovate or reopen,

There is a small cafe, and I think that a quick cup of coffee and a chat with locals might help me learn more about Superior, but the place seems to have been first renovated, then closed. All along the highway, I will see people trying to make a go in fading small towns, by opening businesses dependent on passers by. It’s a dicey proposition at best, but I can understand the appeal of living in places that are quiet, safe – and cheap. On the same street workman are renovating another building. I suspect it may have

been some kind of emporium. A very large open space is dominated by a handsome hanging clock and a glorious hammered hammered zinc ceiling. There is no sign as to what the plans or the place might be. The workmen nod when I ask to photograph the clock, but seem skittish even though I’ve spoken in Spanish.  This is Arizona, and its understandable why they. legal or not, might be wary of strangers,

Reminds me of the low riders in SF Cinco de Mayo parades.

A quick turn around side streets discloses another mural, this one not political but a whimsical picture of Chicano culture, from traditional Mexican dances to low riders. The homes are mostly tiny clapboard structures, but up a rise toward the copper plant, a large, newish and rather eccentric two story house stands out, The desert attracts people with their own very special visions of how they they wish to live.

Back on the main street, I find the one business that while not then open still seems to be functioning, a cantina, Even here the smoke Nazis are in charge, as the outside bench and butt cans attest. It just seems odd so far fro anywhere, that locals who want to drink Tecate and shoot pool find the state attempting to protect

their health. 

At the end of the street is a county office and a high school, in good repair, but fenced off and not used. So that’s Superior -post office, county office and a couple of guard statons at a closed school and copper mine, Leaving town, I congratulate myself on my immense good fortune in finding the place, fortune that will appear at almost every turn in the next days.

Back on the road and immediately into a twisting canyon road, which unfortunately has no pull outs anywhere for photography. Past the summit is a level area with a few homes called “Top of the World,” that looks like it might have bee a recreational destination long ago there are abandoned cafes and motor courts, and a few houses and trailer here and there. Before air conditioning, this must have been a summer refuge from the desert heat below.

Leaving Superior, headed east

Then a descent to a long arid dry plain,with mountains blue in the distance, This reminds me of a drive to Sedona from Phoenix the previous week: You can count on Arizona to produce something new every few miles: immense vistas, abrupt and complete changes in geology and vegetation.

In Miami, more old smelters,

Active mine and smelter, Miami, AZ

but active extraction as well. Freeport McMoran has a big establishment here. And my first fill up offered two surprises. The first shouldn’t have been a shock: A bit over 50 bucks for the fill up. I make the tank to be around 13 gallons, The last time I spent that much was in France, in 1998.

And a momentary bit of panic as the pump asked me for my zip code…I don’t live America and have a collection of addresses for various purposes. I was able to remember, but this was one more in a string of momentary bewildering confrontations with technical advances in retail services.

Signs tout the upcoming town

Old time atmosphere in Claypool

Claypool, as an antiquer’s paradise so I pull in for a look. Just as in Superior, an old smelter dominates the town from a height, as one did also in Globe down the road. There must be some technical reason as to the consistency in siting. Claypool is doing better as a tourist draw than Superior, but again, just as one entrepreneur is busy renovating and old building, his neighbor  is having a going out of business sale.

Claypool is a bit more lively that Superior

Inactive mine, Claypool

All over small town America one finds fine old buildings such as these. Each in its time represented the pride and enterprise of its builders and owners, the fulfillment of a dream.

Boneyard, Claypool

You can only easily get decent Mexican food in two places: Mexico,and the United States. In other words you need Mexicans. I grew up in southern L.A County, and the highlight of the month was when my father, on payday, would stop at the tortilla factory and bring us homemade Mexican that the ladies sold out the back door of the plant.  Then we moved to the wilderness of New York, Mexican food speaking. If you love Mexican food( and if you don’t, well – I just think soothing is missing from your life) then you know the ache of deprivation if you been long without it. I once met a young guy doing a Fulbright in rural Java.  He was on a weekend toot in a bar in Surabaya, a big city there.  From Phoenix, he asked me what I missed about the States.  I said the food, especially Mexican.  “Is there any other kind?” he said.


A fine combination plate : the tamales are made on site. That soft, but solid hand shaped masa, and the delicious reward of spicy meat in the center. Salsa flecked with fresh cilantro.  Fire and herbal coolness. The red and green of the the Mexican Republic’s flag, in your grateful mouth.

The lunch crowd includes a lot of older people – this is Arizona – and they are

Globe, Arizona

clearly regulars greeting the waitresses by name. On the walls, many framed pictures of the family running the place, their parents and grandparents, back to sepia prints. As well as with local pols, and certificates of appreciation for contributions to various civic causes. Immigration is such a confusing issue. I’m glad these people are here, not just for the excellent lunch they provide, but because they have clearly not only made their own lives over generations, but have built the community as well.

When I come out, the bikers are still at it.

Past Globe the road climbed again. Then came wonder. A great canyon extended to the West and the way climbed and followed it towards the North and east. This was the Salt River canyon. I had never heard of it.

Salt river Canyon, looking Northwest. Of curse I had heard of the Salt River Project, providing hydro power for Phoenix and irrigation for the vast fields of cotton in western Arizona, but this was a revleation

Suddenly, I find myself shouting out loud: Holy shit! This is better than an unexpected check in the mail. An immense winding gorge, eroded rock strata piled in colored ribbons, twists away to the northwest. Again, Arizona delights, surprises, and this time, overwhelms.

There weren’t any turnouts for a while, but a road crew was working and I was able to slow down and take some one handed shots. A glorious spiral of switchbacks brought me down to the canyon floor and a bridge across the river. Then a climb and a pullout. From here the most spectacular part of the canyon was in line with the sun, so with a point and shoot and no filters, there wasn’t much I could do but shade the lens with my hand and hope for the best, but the view in the other direction where the canyon narrows and

This is Apache country.

disappears into the mountains was perfect.

There was another guy there, about my age, and oddly enough also an expatriate, working in the Philippines and Thailand. Having seen much of the world, he decided that it was time to see something of his own country. He too was astonished by what lay before us.

Then up again, and at the summit I looked down into completely different country. Low mountains and pine forested mesas, rising dark green above shadowy canyons. Country that could hide a kingdom, and that did shelter the Apache for so long,

The road headed northeast with the high country to my right, a grassy plain on the left.Then a  sign, “Mangas.”  42 miles up into the mesas. Mangas Colorado? The great warrior? Too far to peel of the high way see what it was about. I’ve since been unable to find any trace of this place on the maps I find on the net,but I would love to go back there and take that right turn.

A anybody who grew up in the 50s could not resit a sign saying "Ft. Apache 22."

Then, another sign, one I could not resist. Fort Apache. For anyone my age, the 44 round trip mile detour was mandatory. Fort Apache was the 50s television home of Rusty and his dog Rin Tin Tin. Off the highway and on to a reservation road, the speed limit dropped ten miles. The road followed the White River with the mountains to the west. Gentle, empty country, a crossroads gas station half way, and then a descent into autumn gold White River, center of the White Mountain Apache Reservation.

I had one of these.

Decent looking homes, some clearly government issue projects going up ,with Interior Department contract numbers and funding information on signs. The town is clean and orderly with a handsome setting on the river bank.

Fort Apache itself is another mile down the road.

Not at all the palisaded wood stockade of the TV show, but a rectangular layout of buildings centered on an Indian school from the late nineteenth century.  One log structure remains, the home of General Crook, the Indian fighter, whom the Apache called Nantan Lupan, “Grey Wolf.,”and having defeated them worked for their benefit. I pay my five bucks at the visitor center, a well run place with more interest the ten minutes I had to give it, and walked around the grounds. I was the only visitor and there was no sound save the soft wind rustling the late season leaves.

General Crook's home, oldest structure at Ft. Apache

Back to Highway 60.

To the North a plain dotted with eroded mesas and ancient volcanic cones, one can see eons here. A light rain begins to fall.  To the Northwest the land slopes and mist fills a great depression, above which in a golden break in the weather the late evening sun shines on a distant power plat that seems to float above the greyness.  There is little traffic.  Occasional gates for ranch roads. 

Show Low, that oddly named town, then Springerville, the gateway to the White Mountains as it advertises itself.  As I enter, something flashes in my eyes.  It’s one of those portable speed registers, and this one take pictures.,  Another, and unwelcome innovation over the time I’ve been away. A quick tap on the brakes  and a slow ride through town.  A likely looking place, but it’s not yet 5 and I elect to continue.

New Mexico

Welcome  to new Mexico somewhere on the rising plain.  Darkness falls and the road rises. Rain and the dark loom of tall pines on either side.  A cleared area, gas station, two motels and a liquor store.  Had there been a bar and cafe, I think I would have stopped.  I’m hoping for a bunk within walking distnace of a country western bar.

Two darkened towns Quemado and Pietown.  Later I will find that there are indeed pies in Pietown.  A sign for the Continental Divide, the beginning of the  long slope to the Mississippi.

Magdalena has a number of motels, a steakhouse and bar, and a sign for a an old hotel, renovated, along with a lot of weathered looking houses and old time businesses, some shuttered, some still running,  and of course, a Dollar store.

The motels  are all full, with many military vehicles parked..  My guess would be National Guard or reserves on maneuvers.  Patriotism and service are very real in the southwest.

So it’s on to Socorro, down in the Rio Grande Valley.  The radio is now heavy on religious stations, in  both English and Spanish.  This will continue all the way through Missouri.

Curves, and extensive road work.  TARP, I wonder?  The distant oasis of light that is Soccoro nears painfully slowly,  When the road work ends, the first sign for a ten mile reduction in speed appears.  These continue at intervals, until I am crawling at 35 with no traffic, and the town still far away.  This reminds me of the yellow caution signs for a two inch step into an aircraft you see in the U.S.  Safety is important, but we carry it too far sometimes for infinitesimal, or non existent gains,

I’m doing 25 and still haven’t entered the town, and the roadsides on both sides are still empty.  Finally, I’m in Socorro , navigating by dead reckoning, and end up at the central plaza.  It looks like exactly you would expect in one of New Mexico’s oldest towns.  There is a cheerfully lit western style bar, and I tell myself that I might come back once I get settled.

The strip leading out to  the interstate turns out to be not far away, and I stop at the first motel I see that that is south of 50 bucks,  Curry smell in the lobby and  the usual Mr. Patel.  I thought this so odd when I stumbled into an Indian motel in Moab, Utah back in 78, but now I expect it, and seek these guys out if I want something a little cheaper than the chains,

After years in Southeast Asia enjoying lodging from 30-to 50 dollars in real hotels with room service, great cable, swimming pools and whatever, I knew I was in for a let down.    How does one describe the smell of a cheap motel?  It’s not a lack of hygiene; these places do get inspected,  Its the smell of old furniture, the smell of transience, the odor of a thousand lives passing though, none staying long enough to make the place home.

It’s late and instead of hitting a bar, I settle for snack food and Dos Equis  from a liquor store conveniently across the street., and check out the cable,as the advertised WIFI is non existent.  Not much.  Even in first class hotels in the US the cable selection is nothing like you get in Asia, but it is fun to watch local TV, see how the high school team is doing, and learn how people make a living from what is advertised.  This is cattle country, and there also seems to be a lot of trucking,.

The bed is clean and I drift off easily, with images of all that i had seen playing a retrospective of a wonderful day, content, knowing that tomorrow would b the same or better.

Unemployment Figures: Rosy Scenario is a Lyng Slut, and the MSM Pimp Her.

Good News in the January Employment figures : MSNBC Headlines :” Jobless rate drops to lowest level in almost three years.”

The market rises.  Democrats celebrate.  Republicans quake.

Those not too lazy to scroll to the bottom of the page, and click a few links to verify this pablum find something different.

In the second to last  of around twenty paragraphs, the reader finds this:

Even with the January jobs gain, the employment market still faces a long road back to full health. The nation has about 5.6 million fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in late 2007. And there are still 12.8 million people out of work, though that is the fewest since the recession ended. An additional 11 million are either working

part-time but would prefer full-time work, or have stopped searching for jobs.

The article quotes the President as saying there remain, ” too many Americans who need a job.”

He is entirely right on that.  Clicking around the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one finds this under “Employment Situation.”

After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, the employment-population ratio (58.5 percent) rose in January, while the civilian labor force participation rate held at 63.7 percent. (See table A-1. For additional information about the effects of the population adjustments, see table C.)

For a similarly low employment-populatoin ratios haven’t been seen since the Carter years. 

This chart tells a sorry tale of labor force participation

Series Id: LNS11300000 Seasonally Adjusted Series title: (Seas) Labor Force Participation Rate Labor force status: Civilian labor force participation rate Type of data: Percent or rate Age: 16 years and over

Discourage enough people, and make it easier for those not inclined to work, and indeed the unemployment rate will decline.  While there is little doubt that a Republican administration in a similar pickle would also be crowing, one wonders how the media would be pitching it.

As for the jobs that are being added, I would posit that the improvement reflects the resiliency of the business cycle, which, while distorted by statism, hasn’t been entirely crushed – yet.

Elizabeth Warren: the Mathematics of Warm Fuzziness

Below is a transcript of Warren’s remarks: “I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

A relative posted this on my Facebook Wall. She knows where I stand and enjoys provoking me, Her comment was, “Napalm!” Presumably meaning that Ms Warrens argument blows away any refutation

I had already seen this as it made quite a stir, but had dismissed it as the usual bushwa, unworthy of comment. But seeing this come from my relative, a prosperous inhabitant of Northern Virginia, comfortably ensconced  within the the  confines of the permanent   government prosperity bubble, a woman who fits exactly the Obama Campaign 2012 target group of well-paid white professionals after its abandonment of white working men, it gave me pause. The strategy is working.



My Facebook response:

Barf! As P.J. O’Rourke said, Liberalism is communism sold by the drink, and this lady has downed quite a few. A fatuous One pctr of the academic academic nomenklatura, who would lack for nothing in the people’s paradise she advocates. Cf, Milovan Djilas, “The New Class.”


Napalm hardly necessary: a match applied to the Marxist flatulence here would do the trick. Ms Warren seems to believe that a primordial government arrived in North America and then built an infrastructure, perhaps using gold they found in treasure caves, and then business made money, and she is now presenting the bill. Where does she think the revenue for building roads and bridges comes from? From the productive sector, not government. She presents an absurd, ex nihilo argument that is only coherent to one who believes the people(small c people, left talk for the state ) has the primary claim to property, whether extant or newly created.

While faintly praising her example factory owner for achievement, Warren says it is “the rest of us” who paid for the infrastructure and ancillary services that support the enterprise. Leaving aside fees and levies specific to industrial construction, which can be quite onerous, where did “the rest of us” get the money that was taxed in order to pay for the civic goods the industrialist is so greedily exploiting?

Ms. Warren, a tenured professor at Harvard, author of many published journal articles as well as mass market books on personal finance, certainly has a more extensive corpus of work than the President she echoes, but credentials don’t make an argument. Clearly, most community organizers and professors have little understanding of capital and competition.

Neither Ms Warren nor the President have any experience in ventures aimed at profit. Ms. Warren might try a turn at introspection. Have not “the rest of us” helped Harvard achieve its status as a sanctum for thinkers whose ideas need not stand up to real world conditions and enjoy job protection as iron bound as any shop steward? Harvard may be private, but it is no stranger to federal money. Even better, major universities rarely if ever go out of business. Harvard can not only raise the price for its brand but use it to obtain government grants, and encourage students to mortgage their futures for the privilege of a Harvard education.

Fair enough; that’s the way it works.

In my Facebook Post, I called Ms Warren a “One Percenter.” Her campaign finance disclosures, vague as they are allowed to be under the rules still indicate that she is definitely one of those under-fleeced millionaires the Republicans have been protecting from a righteous shearing.

Well, one might think, she, like Warren Buffet, Mark Damon and others of prominence are taking a principled stand, even though it will cause her to pay more.

I doubt it somehow. Such people have access to legal and accounting services that will keep their assessments quite comfortable within the convoluted and ever expanding tax code.

Even were they to be shorn completely down to their well cared for skins, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The WSJ published a story stating that the entire income of the plus 250k crowd would not pay for the deficit. This was gleefully debunked, but the concept is worth further examination.

From factcheck.org

But all of the taxable income of those earning more than $100,000 in 2008 was actually $3.4 trillion, more than double the figure published in the editorial. We checked the math ourselves using IRS data. The Journal ran a correction on April 19 on page A16. The online version of the editorial was corrected two days later. The bottom of the editorial now says: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the total taxable income of Americans earning over $100,000 in 2008 was $1.582 trillion. The correct figure is $3.4 trillion.”

If you go to the OMB site, you’ll find something rather disingenuously called “The President’s Budget.” Disingenuous because this budget has never been submitted to Congress. Also a little sneaky is that while some programs are touted with costs and “savings” the total of the budget can only be found by clicking on to some excel tables, which will turn quite a few people off.( Even I can make graphs with excel spreadsheets; why don’t these guys? Would it then be too easy to see what is going on?)

2011 total expenditures are predicted to be 381889 million(That’s how we say “trillion.”)

So, if all those rich people have an equal or better year as they did in 2008, and the White house projections are correct, we will have a half trillion or less deficit. If we take ALL their taxable income. The following year, we could confiscate their assets,as they would have given up on earning money.

A look at some IRS stats will show you that the rich are already paying the most, and at progressive rates, while about half the country pays nothing at all. Even if you accept this cultural Marxist frenzy of envy based redistribution, we aren’t going to be able to tax our way out of this. Not on the rich. Look for the 25000,00 – or is it 200,000, accounts vary – floor to descend.

The Administration knows these things to be true; its supporters refuse to see. Like my relative, they go to bed at night and sleep well in the complacency of unearned virtue and bogus “sacrifice.”.