Sunday, July 20, 2014

Urban Geometry

 
Visiting a real city is a treat if for no other reason than the zooming geometry of metal and glass piercing the sky.  The competing angles of adjacent buildings from different eras vying for air space in the blue yonder offer up unending juxtapositions such as these from Atlanta Midtown last weekend.

 





Atlanta, as all big cities, is full of neighborhoods like upscale Midtown and Buckhead to its north. Atlanta Five Points, Grants Park and East Atlanta were new to me and, thanks to my guide Garrett Immel whose sensibilities are eerily similar, have been added to a growing list of locales that demand a closer look very soon. More to come.





 

 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The rise and fall of Charles Bent

As I started back to Taos from the Amache Camp in Granada I debated the merits of taking the most direct route or a slight detour to Old Bent’s Fort near La Junta, Colorado.  Like Amache, Bent’s Fort had been on my shot list for a few years and since I was so near I tacked northwest to visit the fort which was built in 1833 as the major trading post on the mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail and that lasted a scant sixteen years. That’s a lot of fort for such a short lifespan given its importance during our nation’s Westward Ho moment.


William and Charles Bent built the massive fort on the banks of the Arkansas River and it became the trading hub of an empire stretching from Kansas City to The Rockies and from the Platte River to Santa Fe. At Bent’s trappers peacefully traded buffalo robes with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe as the Bents supplied travelers, explorers and the US Army with food, water and repairs on the rugged and remote Santa Fe Trail.
 


In 1846 Bent’s Fort was the staging area for General Stephen Watts Kearny’s Army of the West which drove Mexico out of New Mexico.  Kearny named Charles Bent governor of the newly established New Mexico territory and, in a Taos related piece of history, Bent was shot, scalped alive and killed by Pueblo and Mexican attackers in 1847.
 
While the 24 room adobe fort is impressive, it’s the architectural details and human artifacting that drew me.
 




 
Old Bent’s Fort is actually quite new having been reconstructed by the National Park Service in 1976.


 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Blind Injustice

Amache 1943

Last year I wrote extensively about the Japanese Relocation Camps built just after Pearl Harbor but had visited just two, Topaz near Delta, Utah and Manzanar outside of Lone Pine, California. Then two weeks ago I made my way to the Amache Camp in Colorado. Situated near the Kansas border just off US 50 in Granada the sprawling camp once housed 7,500 internees and was, at its peak the tenth largest town in the state. Walking through fields of dust, sage and cactus I tried to imagine the feelings that Japanese families must have felt to have been uprooted from their homes in California, mostly near Los Angeles, and delivered to an arid patch of dirt where the winds blew hard and furious and their homes for the next three years were to be twelve to the block tar paper and plywood housing units without running water.
Facing west

Barracks Foundation

When the prisoners, is any other term more apt? , arrived they found a camp just partially built and had to complete construction themselves. The WRA, War Relocation Authority, knew full well that the camp was not ready for occupancy but was unwilling to delay the relocation even a single day so strong was anti-Japanese sentiment in America and at the top levels of the authority. Its head, Lieutenant General J.L. Dewitt, was an ardent racist on his best day.

On June 39, 1942 the first 212 internees, these from California’s Central Valley, arrived at Amache. The mostly male contingent was selected for its diverse skills as artisans, stenographers, clerks, cooks and other specialties that would help prepare the camp for settlement.  When they arrived only two blocks of barracks, one mess hall and one latrine had been completed. At its full occupancy the camp had 550 buildings and by October 1942 housed 7,567 prisoners.

The original 25,000 water tank which was found on a nearby farm and reassembled in 2012.

Subsidiary tank, one of four.

The original pump house still in use.

This is for your own good.
Most western governors were adamantly against having relocation camps in their states.  Only Colorado governor Ralph L. Carr, a Republican for Pete's sake, saw the Japanese relocation policy as the tragic miscarriage of justice that it was and actually welcomed the Japanese Americans to his state.

He stated, “This is a difficult time for all Japanese speaking people.  We must work together for the preservation of our American system and the continuation of our theory of universal brotherhood…If we do not extend humanity’s kindness and understanding, if we deny them the protection of the Bill of Rights, if we say that they must be denied the privilege of living in the 48 states without hearing or charge of misconduct, then we are tearing down the whole American system.” Further, he said that “hosting the detainees is a civic responsibility.” They don’t make ‘em like Ralph Carr anymore.
 
Carr’s vocal support for the Japanese was, of course, highly controversial and he was defeated in his bid for the US Senate in 1942. He had retired from public life but decided to run for governor again in 1950. He died a month before the election. 
 

Soon after his death, Coloradans started to understand that his principled stand had been right, that there been zero cases of spying or espionage in the Japanese American community.

 
Ralph Carr is remembered as a person of rare humanity, someone who stood up for the rights of others even when that stand cost him his political career.  This honorable man is memorialized with a statue in Denver’s Sakura Square and the new Ralph Carr Judicial Center that houses the Colorado Supreme Court.

 
In 1999, the Denver Post named him Colorado’s “Citizen of the Century.”

Take time to click on the images to see them full size.  You've got to read the sign in the last one.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Grasslands Sojourn

Though there are bits and piece left undisclosed from our Spanish adventure I’m tapped out on the subject for now.  It’s time to move on to new victims and fresh locales. So there’ll be no more Spain till I’ve returned to the scene of the crime. And, yes friends and neighbors, that’s a done deal.  I’m tagging on an eighteen day hopscotch of the Iberian Peninsula in late September just after our two weeks in the south of France. Can’t promise a faithful reprise of the May trip.  I'll start in Barcelona but who in the world knows where inclination and serendipity will lead?

Nearer to home I took a two day jaunt to the Amache Relocation Camp by way of the grasslands of northeastern New Mexico and bookended the camp with a long intended visit to Old Bent’s Fort near La Junta, Colorado. It was a highly condensed road trip in which I left on a Thursday mid-afternoon and was back for some good Guadalajara Grill Friday night. Let’s just say there were more driving hours than photographic ones and that I relished both.

For what it’s worth, not all of these disparate subjects will make this post.  We’ll just see where this goes.  Don’t ask me, I’m just the typist.

Since I had been intrigued by Capulin Volcano near tiny Capulin and barely larger Des Moines, New Mexico and because I could plot a path to La Junta by way of Capulin that’s the route I picked.  Just past Raton the land turned earnestly pastoral and the volcano loomed above the plains.  Alas, the Capulin Volcano National Monument has closed for the day.  It was just after 5PM and that’s the kind of result you’ll get when you’re planning averse and can’t tell time.

All was far from lost however and the Comanche National Grassland gave up a three old homesteads that grace these pages today.
 


 
 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gaudi's Obsession

La Sagrada Familia on completion in 2026

Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia is undoubtedly the landmark most associated with Barcelona. In a city of grand architectural themes, Gaudi’s extravagant church stands above all others.  It’s also Barcelona’s number on tourist attraction which is not a surprise given the line stretching for two blocks when we were there.



If you wonder how the ongoing construction of the lavish monument is paid for please refer to the queue of visitors who cough up 25 million Euros a year to take a peak.   That covers most of the costs and donations pay for the rest. And so La Sagrada Familia is an expiatory church which means that it’s paid for by donations and entrance fees and not by the Catholic Church.




The construction of architectural marvel began in 1882 and as of 2014 is deemed to be one third complete.  The current architect pledges that the church will be finished for the centenary of Gaudi’s death in 1926. 

For Gaudi La Sagrada Familia was his life’s work and an effort that left him penniless when he was run over by a tram on Barcelona’s Gran Via.  Because he appeared to be a vagrant his body was not identified for several days after he was killed. He was 74. It’s a tragic counterpoint to the design and construction of a building of which art critic Rainer Zerbst writes, “It’s probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art.” The intricate fusion of Gothic and Art Nouveau forms supports the hyperbole.



La Sagrada Familia is not a cathedral which must be the seat of a bishop but was designated a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVl in 2010.   One does ponder what it takes to be a major basilica.

The images shown herein are from the single unerased memory card that survived the trip and that’s only because the hard drive was dead before I shot them. I was perfectly capable of losing it too

And for those who are clamoring to know the results of my informal yet highly sophisticated but not exactly solicited poll asking whether I should to return to Spain to capture a semblance of my lost but not forgotten photographs the tally is eight for and three against. That’s a super majority or something like that.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

La Toma


Starting on May 9 Gaucin, our Pueblo Blanco in Andalusia, reenacted the sacking of the village by Napoleon’s troops in 1810 and the subsequent peasant uprising of 1812 called La Toma which the drove the French from the town.  Just two years later the French were chased out of Spain for good. 

Each year the citizens of Gaucin and surrounding towns reenact the French takeover and their overthrow on a spring weekend. It’s some fiesta. It’s like celebrations of Paul Revere’s 1776 ride and the shot heard round the world in Concord, Massachusetts but with more revelry.  That’s Spanish for drinking.
 


There's one hell of a lot of frivolity given the carnage.

 
Like the reenacters of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, their Spanish brethren, especially those playing French soldiers, have spared no expense in acquiring period specific regalia for the big battle.  These players belong to the Napoleonic Association of Abuera. Who knew such a thing existed? The rebels are played by men and women from Gaucin and Ronda and their costumes are more modest. They are after all peasants.
 
 
This is as close as I’m going get to being a war correspondent.  “This is Steve Immel reporting from the front lines near the Plaza Mayor in Gaucin, Spain. Back to you, Chet.”

 

 

Short sighted in Taos


WD, the ailing hard drive, was pronounced dead after a lengthy surgical procedure at a hospital in Novato, California.  According to doctors the drive had sustained severe head trauma and numerous broken bones and was unable to survive the delicate surgery.  No usable organs were harvested for future use.

This begs the issue of the sheer stupidity and lack of foresight that caused this crisis not to mention the quandary, read expense, of going straight back to Spain to recapture the magic. When I got the news Friday morning my reaction was mixed.   Certainly I was disheartened that Drive Savers couldn’t recover the data but my penurious self was $2,500 richer at least for the moment.

Those of you who have asked about the outcome know that I have jestingly said that I will have to go back to Spain, retrace my steps and get the lost shots. On Friday when I got the news that WD had died I concluded that I didn’t deserve to reward myself for failing to take measures that would have backed up the images. I deserve what I got.

Then again, this is a monumental loss for somebody who is possessed with recording his adventures and this hair shirt is really itchy.

According to those whose opinions I hold in high regard, namely three people so far, it is unanimous that I should go back to Spain and complete the job.  Still I waffle.

The thing is, if I take the “saved” $2,500 and put another $1,500 or so with it I can probably engineer a boots on the ground data recovery process of my own and, one could argue, do it better this time since I know the lay of the land and there would be precious little searching for places or subjects.  Just sayin.’

Here’s what’s at stake, amigos.  I lost the middle three weeks of a four week trip. So I don’t have images of Granada and the Alhambra; Seville and the cathedral (the third largest in the world) and Alcazar; Jerez with its sherry and famed equestrian academy; Ronda and the new bridge from which the partisans threw officers of Franco’s Guardia Civil; the beach and market at Estepona; all of Madrid and most of Gaucin and La Castilla del Aquila. That’s a lot to lose.

I'm struggling with this folks.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Best and besterer

I have a penchant for declaring things the best ever. Occasionally I actually mean it.

In Spain we experienced a couple of bests or at least ones that tied for first.  Both involved food, surprise of surprises. In the interest of fairness gained from a lifelong culinary adventure I will name herein the contenders for First Prize in the categories of Orange Juice and Steak.

Zumo de naranja not jugo as used in Latin America is near and dear to my heart and palate. Rich, sweet, viscous orange juice is a top tenner among all foods to me and we had the honor of drinking the best orange juice in recent memory at Casa Antonia in Gaucin.  When we didn’t eat breakfast at home we repaired to the little bar on the plaza for desayuno of Café con Leche, Zumo de Naranja Natural (fresh squeezed) and Pan Tostada. On more than one occasion we ordered a second round of the profound juice from the oranges from Enrique’s trees outside Gaucin. I know this because I asked Enrique where he got his oranges, the very same question I asked the proprietor of an obscure shack between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach more than thirty years ago. These august juices contend for the best ever to pass my lips.  I am unable to show you the rich, viscous nectar from Casa Antonia for reasons well established in these pages.  The best I can do is show the outdoor café at which we partook of the juice. In the event the erstwhile files are retrieved I will post pics of Collins glasses filled to the brim with the stuff of legends.
Ever the thorough researcher, my study did not stop with where the oranges came from but also uncovered the variety of orange yielding this elixir. And here I had a tiny surprise.  In California the regal Valencia is the king of juice oranges while the humble but larger Navel is the one for eating because it’s so easy to peel. Imagine my surprise to learn than Enrique’s oranges were not the vaunted Valencia but the rude Navalina.
 
And then in a discovery at the opposite end of fooddom came the steak of a lifetime at El Churrasco in Cordoba. The epic steak described as Lomo de Buey and that we would call Sirloin was simply the juiciest, most tender, most flavorful steak ever or at least since devouring The Lindey’s Special Sirloin at Lindey’s Steakhouse in Arden Hills just north of Saint Paul, Minnesota more than forty years ago. Lindey’s is still going strong after 56 years which informs us about doing something simple really well. I recall a visit a mid-winter visit to Lindey’s with our good friend Harold Bissner when the thermoter dipped to 56 below.  Mind you this was in our new, yellow BW Beetle.  In ordinary climes one would have expected a empty restaurant but this was rugged Minnesota. There was a wait.
El Churrasco
And at El Churrasco as at Casa Antonia, the provenance of their magnificent steaks was paramount. The duly proud manager said that the restaurant bought its beef about fifty kilometers north of Cordoba and done so for decades.  The obvious follow up was how long they aged their beef. The steak had some serious age on it. The answer was three weeks off premise and another one to two weeks in-house.  That’s a boatload of aging and it yielded mythic results. The ample fat was as buttery as marrow.  I defy you to have that steak and not sneak a bite of that fat.
Me high on steak
 
This whole episode had us talking about El Churrasco for the rest of the trip and doing research on how to dry age our own beef.
 
Thanks to the resourceful and talented Peggy Immel for the supporting images. I got nothing.
 
Thanks for asking.  The hard drive is in the loving hands of Drive Savers where they are surgically extracting the files, a process that will take four or five business days and at a price on the north end of their estimate.  I am, as they say, cautiously optimistic and still not smiling.  Failing that I will be on the redeye to Spain to retrace my steps and recapture the shots lost due to operator error. I’m only kinda joking.