Wednesday, April 27, 2011


YOU REMEMBER THE SONG: "Delta Dawn whats that flower you have on? Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?".....A story of a heartbroken and abandoned woman so shattered that she lost her mind then wandered aimlessly around town with a suitcase---waiting in vain for her lover to come. WELL----I MET A REAL LIVE DELTA DAWN ---BUT WITH A VERY DIFFERENT ENDING----THAT LIFTED MY HEART AND MADE ME CHEER.
I drifted a few days ago into a small New Mexico town--- settled into this empty lot---and walked around with my senses alert. I make it my destiny to detect useful drama----and I soon catch wind of a powerful story: Of a tiny uneducated mexican lady married 20 years to a man she made wealthy with her dilligent labor--- then was tricked into signing away her legal rights-- kicked into the streets with only a pick-up truck to live in. Worse yet, the stress brought on a debilitating stroke and for a long time she just barely clings to life and sanity on the mean streets of this small town. As with Delta Dawn---everybody knew! AND THEN----AND THEN-- She physically and mentally improved a bit....noticed a junker house selling for a song----made a deal to buy it---got a job cleaning toilets---and soon had a place to live. Working 2 jobs, she slowly renovated the place and leveraged it to buy a junker 4 plex. Life began to have purpose again. And Then a whole half block of abandoned store buildings came up for sale-----and she bought them with almost nothing down and a promise to pay. I will go find this lady and hopefully catch her spirit.

I found the old stores--4 of them--now conglomerated into one.

With minimal exterior fixing---

and this more-than-appropriate name. (I smiled at the misspelled word )

Meet Rosie---a heroine of hope and self healing---a bootstrap visionary, entrepeneur and even (as you will see) an empire builder.

She stocked an empty store with 300,000 items---all these screws and bolts.

Used items--tires wheels--household items

Row upon row of hardware ---she put every single piece in place.

one whole wing is a thrift store.

Next door a truck and lumber yard.

It had no roof---till she built it---personally rebuilding trusses, nailing down roof panels----THEN covering it all with tar paper and roofing-----it doesn't leak.

She poses with me----so tiny a bundle of indefatigable energy---and WILL. By comparison I am a lazy lazy bum unworthy of the hug she gave me.

BUT WAIT----THERE IS MORE--- I went home -- pondered this blythe spirit---decided I needed to know more. Next day, I tracked her down at her Motel----HER MOTEL??? Yes she bought a delapidated 51 room motel and began restoring it----painting, carpeting, tiles, tvs etc. 21 of the rooms are functional. She showed me the whole thing---a staggering project for one person to undertake. She is undaunted. She serves me tea while I ask the deeper questions.

She has never told her story she said--when I had finished. She wept once relating painful

details. What I want to know is the secret to her will, vision and energy. Later I will sumarize the story and share my guesses.

A glory shot-----she celebrates her motel. Now she can house the "team" she is assembling-to help her in the next phase of her empire. (Several workers--including her son)

She has plans for this old swimming pool-----to roof it and make a sunken tea room with fountain.
Here's her background: Born in Mexican town near Chihuahua; 2nd of 8 kids --given to her aunt to raise--then returned to a stern mother when the aunt died. As a child she sold ice cream then operated a horse and buggy transporting stuff and helped her father build an adobe house. At about 15 she slipped into the US at Douglas, Az and made her way to Benson where she got a job with her husband-to-be. Eventually they were married for 28 yrs producing one son. She worked unceasing for her husband and they got rich---perhaps a half million--sold out, moved to this town where the wretched husband played his dirty trick and absconded with the money, putting her on the street.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I don't know why some people sink and some swim. I'm betting it's a long string of cumulative accidents that shaped our character. I'm convinced, however, that it's easier than we suspect to facilitate great personal strength in kids and in adults---that we can "catch" admirable qualities from our intrepid friends. I think Religion and other cultural forces often intefere. I was saddened that this lady avoids love interest and seemingly never plays. I was touched by her undefensiveness.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


DEEP DEEP IN THE BOONDOCKS---LEGEND HAS IT---THERE EXIST A REAL LIVE TOWN WITH ALL THE QUALITIES OF MYSTICAL BRIGADOON--(Lerner and Lowe's Broadway Musical.) I will go find it---but count me skeptical at the outset---Why should the remotes foster better people or a richer life than big town USA.

There it is---out there in the bushes---a bare handfull of houses---what could possibly be so special about this dot on the map--that would give rise to a national reputation--(among the underground cognoscenti)

Arriving on its outskirts---I'm hoping you cannot read its name----I will not reveal the state or approximate location---like so many small and exquisite things its essence is somewhat fragile---I hope to describe it without injuring it.

Already, it is a weekend destination for those fleeing conventionality.

Seen from west to east----nothing special so far---a store, post office, bar and taco stand.

A one stop sign town---some old adobe ranch houses from last century. What---I say--What--- is all the hubub about?

I stop and walk around town----saunter through an art store and get my first clue---It's filled with beautiful things, locally made ----Not least of which is the beautiful personality of its keeper---A JOYFUL AND UNDEFENSIVE individual. In mere seconds she celebrates something we have in common (I won't say what)

Across the street on a weathering adobe wall I find my second clue. And of course I got the story.

Backing away (can you still see the 86 sign ) You get a fuller picture of the 86 club---an amazing impromptu institution ----a place for those individuals who've been eighty-sixed (expelled) from the bar to gather with other expellees--and commiserate with their kind. Tomorrow their sins are erased and they can go back. Later in the evening as I passed ---all the chairs were filled with sodden but not sullen souls---bantering away.

But all I'd seen thus far paled to insignificance when I was invited to a dinner party with these three long-time denizens of the town. Surely one of the great dinner conversations of my life---very much like the movie--MY DINNER WITH ANDRE. Unlike most of my interviews---these inquisitive folks probed MY mind as much as I probed theirs. What great humor and insight. I had found the secret to "Brigadoon's" reputation----UNFETTERED. POLISHED PERSONALITIES.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Like Brigadoon---this town is a momentary materialization of something--"non material". More specifically, it is a critical-mass of evolved personalities. Just two polished souls will attract a third and the three will draw--with increasing pull--a fourth---and so on till critical mass is achieved and like a collected ball of hydrogen will begin to glow--star-like. Towns come alive like stars by the process of fusion---creative connection. Put yourself in such a town and (if you let yourself ) you will catch the glow and add to it.

In a later interview with one of those three I learned more: One creative soul generated a terrific town library---another spearheaded a community garden--still another initiated a film festival---another teaches the world to build inexpensive cob houses---another donated land for a sizable back-to-the-land community---another arranged internet service for the community--others lead meditation sessions, book discussions and art projects.

Interestingly, the town has no law enforcement officers---the odd misbehaver is subject to community pressure---which usually suffices.

The overriding truth I leave with is that we need not search for Brigadoon---we can build one anywhere.

Friday, April 15, 2011


EPIPHANY: A SUDDEN REALIZATION---OFTEN TRANSFORMATIVE OF CHARACTER OR PERSPECTIVE. -----MEET A GUY WHO HAD ONE. The story starts here---I'm on my way to experience a legendary town in southern Az --late evening catches me here and I camp for the night in this vacant lot of a tiny tiny town. I've traveled 50 miles today---about as much as I care to drive in a single day. ( stopped 5 times to investigate stuff)
Across the way is a familiar looking bar----and suddenly I realize that I've been here before. (I remind my readers that on average I camp in 110 different places per year) Tonight---when things get hopping---I will go have a beer and engage some locals.
But AAAHH---A surprise awaited me. When I walked in--a voice rang out---LOOK---ITS THE KODGER MAN. Someone had been reading my blog---and recognized me from a year ago. He told me that my description of the town and the bar scene dynamics in particular were spot on accurate and created a few laughs.
The bar maid is different, however,---but no less friendly---as I quizzed her about the nightly drama of having to "cut someone off." Turns out that the very person who had been "cut off" last year had already been "cut off" tonight. I marvel that such a fragile looking lady could muster the gumption to handle liquored-up men. Consider how difficult the decision as to when someone has had enough---yet she seemingly had no problem discerning that fine line or making her decision stick.
I engaged this gentleman briefly---a regular it seems --- longtime resident and worker---as friendly and open as I could ask. It struck me that communities of two cultures (e.g. Blythe California) often have separate bars. But in this towns' cultures mix in this one bar enjoying each other.
I'll get back to the Epiphany subject--but I wanted to show two changes I noticed from my last visit. This teetering house that I photographed then--has now collaapsed. ( check the post of 3/21/10---A Night in a Dead Zone Town )
I took a photo of this church then and there's no sign of this huge century plant. The largest I have ever seen---maybe a world record--I estimate its height at 32 feet. We "westerners" know the dramatic story of a century plant in bloom ---It stores up energy for 15 to 20 years and then spends it all in a matter of weeks---thrusting up that stalk at a terrific rate---as much as an inch an hour---then blooms and makes seeds----AND THEN DIES. A great metaphor here about parents sacrificing their lives for their kids. (punch up century plant and read the brief Time article--good stuff can be made from this plant)
Now back to my Epiphany story. I meet people fairly often who have been "seized" in a mysterious moment----turned their lives around---and then boldly proclaim their convictions to the world---like this truck driver.
And the Dutch couple traveling in this rig. (more about them in a future blog)

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: The guy shaking hands with me in the bar---had such an epiphany--and he told me all about it as he drove me about the area. He suddenly "saw himself" as "off the path"! And then and there decided to get back on it----And he is doing it---for some months now he is keeping true to his vision. He still goes to the Bar---that's where his friends are---but he has stopped drinking. Most notable about him, he is not trying to evangelize his friends. They seemingly are still his friends --- accepting him along with his new manner and morality---not teasing or disparaging his experience. I speculated that in a very small town we are more likely to hold on to our limited number of friends---even as-- they make left,right and u turns in life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


WHERE COYOTES HOWL----AND PROWL. I've been invited to the deep hinterlands of Arizona's border area with Mexico. I'll go---I've learned to say yes when new experiences beckon. Directions given me: South of Tucson---find the giant Steer head at Amado and turn West.

Drive about 30 miles into the boondocks--the road will turn to gravel--but keep driving.
Drive past the billiondollar "electronic fence" ---motion detector designed to pinpoint the location of illegals moving up the valley so that the border patrol can go scoop them up. Well what could go wrong with such a well-thought-out plan? HOW ABOUT COYOTES--THE FOUR LEGGED KIND SETTING OFF A HUNDRED FALSE POSITIVES---CRYING WOLF, WOLF--(was told they just turned it off---another billion down the drain)
There's where I'm going---that ranch house in the distance. It's an old ranch--from last century. A popular novel was written in it. Can you imagine living there?
Gotta get across this arroya---it's worse than it looks and would stop large motor homes---likely twist their frames and break a windshields. Those contemplating the RV lifestyle should factor in where the assorted rigs can and cannot go. I like my 21 footer---
Got across with no real problem.
And there's my destination.
No electricity out here---everything is solar powered---lights---water system--fridge. A bank of deep cycle batteries stores up power from these panels.
My host takes me on a long walk as soon as I am settled.
An old fashioned corral made of desert debris. Actually a cool inviting place---enjoyed poking around--feeling its history.
That's a lot of water---still services the cows and horses that wander about. Can you read the message on the tank? It says "PLEASE DO NOT SHOOT AT THE TANK".
Here's where the water comes from.
A very surprising sign---only in spanish--directed at the illegals--requesting that they turn off the faucet after drinking---and that they not damage the pump because others' lives may depend on it.

Then this comes by---The Border Patrol---they were everywhere down here.
Their horses are saddled--ready to go roundup humans.
A major route for border crossers. My host points to that old abandoned trailer down there--we will investigate.
A tiny surprise is barely visible between the tree and the trailer---I'll go closer.
There---clearly visible---and re filled frequently I am told---a gallon of good water--placed conspicuously----by sincere humanitarians. Many many others dot the entire route----I wondered if the infiltrators grasped the irony and the ambivalence of us Americans---sympathetic and caring all the while we are hunting them down and sending them back. On another occasion I watched the interaction of Captors and Captives---a group of eight--rounded up by horsemen----There was no shouting or abuse--each was searched, given water, seated in the shade till a truck came to transport them. I detected an easy familiarity and even some humor exchanged. Seemed to be a game---the rules understood by all.
Inside the trailer---some furniture--a bed--and this sleeping bag.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I'm chiding myself: ENOUGH ALREADY with the illegal immigration thing. What interest me more in this setting are my feelings as we wander for some days up the mountains and down the washes. Normally a chatterbox--I begin to calm down---speaking less often. The silence out here really is golden. We watched from the back porch as the super moon rose from the mountains. Great moment. Tomorrow I hope to share with you an incredible dinner party my host arranged---drawing in extraordinary intellects from as far away as Alaska.