Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's 'Sno News

Late last night and very early this morning Lubbock got a whooping by Mother Nature.

I worked the late night shift, and all through the night my coworkers and I were constantly looking out the windows to gauge the progress of the snow storm.

If this were Massachusetts, the plows would have been out as soon as the first snow flake hit the ground. Not so in Lubbock. Several hours into the storm, the streets were still white and untouched by any vehicle, much less a snow plow.

But then, the reason for the lack of snow storm preparedness is understandable. Lubbock is not used to getting this kind of snow. The last time it snowed this hard in Lubbock was some 9 years ago. (Of course, such a snow fall would be small potatoes in New England.)

By the time I got out of work at 6 this morning, I had to trudge through snow drifts that were half way up my shins to get to my car. Not having a snow brush or ice scraper, I had to sit in my car for 5 minutes - melting snow puddling in the bottoms of my clogs - with the defroster blasting on high.

When I was finally able to move, I drove all the way home along the unplowed roads in no higher than second gear.

A few brief moments of panic set in when the gate at the apartment complex would not open. It was frozen shut. The gate would only shudder whenever I tried to open it with my key card.

Anxious to get to bed and hating the idea of having to wait hours until maintenance could come and fix the problem, I got out of my car and yanked on the gate.

My effort bore fruit. With great satisfaction I watched the gate roll back.

I drove my car through the gate and to the one only open parking space in front of my apartment. And after a few attempts, I managed to park my car as far up into the snow drift as I could.

My pillow awaited me inside.

As I slept, snug and secure in my bed, I dreamt that all the walkways and parking lots of the apartment campus were shoveled clean.

However, upon waking I was faced with a different kind of reality.

A shovel never touched this snow. And it seemed doubtful that this snow would ever see a shovel or a snow blower.

The mermaid seemed oblivious to her snowy blanket. But then, she was used to New England winters.

This heavy blanket of snow makes it hard to believe that just a couple of days ago, the temps were up in the mid-60s.

As much as I don't care for snow, it does look pretty under a deep blue Texas sky.

Even the pool looks inviting, despite the snow-covered deck chairs.

It did not take long for these icicles to grow.

Traffic was, understandably, very sparse. No one in their right mind would want to be out driving in this.

With temperatures expected to stay low, it looks like we're going to have a white Christmas in Lubbock.

Merry Christmas.

Stay warm.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Prairie Dog Town

Today I decided to take Kane to a different park for his walk. Seeing that we had to go by the South Plains Mall on the way to our usual haunt, I had no desire to battle the heavy Christmas shopping traffic. Thus, I decided to take a drive out to Mackenzie Park on the opposite side of town.

(When taking any of the dogs for a walk, I do not take my camera with me. Thus, this blog is going to be all words.)

Once I got to Mackenzie Park I parked my car at Prairie Dog Town.

Kane and I got out and circled away from Prairie Dog Town.

We came across Gilbert, a older man with a metal detector, and his canine companion, a tall boxer mixer named Chatto. Chatto had a wound on his upper left front leg. Gilbert said that it was from a dog fight and that it cost him $420 in vet bills.

Chatto was rather shy and reserved. He hid behind Gilbert's legs while Kane strained at his leash to reach him.

Gilbert and I talked about metal detecting. He was trying out his new machine, which cost him some $1600.

The desert was one of Gilbert's favorite places to do metal detecting. He would go there any time of the year except summer. That was when the snakes were out.

The desert?

I love the desert.

As such, Gilbert recommended that I visit a few places in west Texas that were desert.

They were Big Bend, Marfa, and Presidio. All 3 places are wildly beautiful places steeped in history and along (or close to) the Mexican border.

Oooh! I would love to go see those places. But with them being about an 8-hour drive from here, it'll have to be longer than a day trip.

After chatting with Gilbert, Kane and I continued on our walk. We saved Prairie Dog Town for last.

There weren't that many prairie dogs out. But of the few that were out, one in particular was very chatty.

Because the wall separating Prairie Dog Town from the rest of Mackenzie Park was low, Kane got to see the prairie dogs when he stood up on his hind legs.

Getting our fill of prairie dogs, we headed back home.

Perhaps some day I'll come back with my camera.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weather Happens

Today was a day for wild weather in Lubbock.

We woke up to a foggy and frigid 24 degree morning. The streets and walkways were covered with sheets of glare ice from the frozen drizzle we had the day before.

Even though the walking and driving was treacherous, there was beauty all around, with the pine needles looking as though they were dipped in sugar.

As the sun started to rise, the fog started to burn off and the temperature got higher. And soon the crystalline frosting on the trees started to melt and drip heavily like rain.

It was a beautiful and gorgeous morning with shining sun and brilliant blue skies.

As I left just before 1:00 PM to meet Ariana for lunch, I saw dark clouds way out on the horizon. By the time we were having lunch at the Mediterranean Cafe, those dark clouds were over us and the rain started coming down.

As it was raining, we heard a continuous light tapping on the restaurant windows. It was hail about the size of pellets.

By the time we were done, the precipitation ceased, and the dark clouds were heading off.

After I returned from lunch, I went to take the dogs out to the park for a walk. By now it was bright and sunny with the temperature at 54 degrees. But the wind was blowing something fierce.

Really fierce.

Even though it was warm, I still had to zip my jacket up to my neck, put my hood up and tighten its drawstrings.

While the wind was not strong enough to blow the dogs all the way to Kansas, it was strong enough to knock little Emi to the ground as she went to climb up the curb.

That was some strong wind - so strong that I cut our typically 1-mile walk short. As soon as the dogs did their business, they were quickly hustled back to the car.

While the sky was bright blue, I saw a large brown cloud on the horizon. A dust storm was heading our way.

I've never experienced a dust storm before. So as soon as I brought the dogs home, I grabbed my camera and headed out the door. I was going to chase that dust storm.

I decided to head out to some desolate parts so that I could better see the progress of the dust storm.

You can still see some blue sky as the dust rolls in.

There's less blue now.

And look how brown the sky is here.

I did not do anything to alter the color of this image. The dust storm made this look like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King movie.

What was interesting about this dust storm was that the dust particles were so fine that I did not feel anything different. There were no stinging particles against my skin. Breathing was normal and uneventful.

I happened to notice this roadside shrine as I was driving down the road.

So I turned around so that I could get a better look at it. The dust storm created an interesting and moody backdrop for this roadside shrine composition.

(I think one of these days I am going to do a photo essay on roadside shrines. They are very fascinating example of native-grown folk art.)

While taking pix of the dust storm and roadside shrine, I was in the area of Lubbock Lake Landmark. So I decided to head that way and see what I could find.

When I got there, it was half an hour before closing, so I really could not do much exploring. Besides, the high winds and not wearing the right type of shoe for walking did not make hiking a very attractive prospect.

But I was still able to get some interesting pix, like this sculpture of Columbian mammoths

or this one of an ancient bison.

And what dust storm would be complete without a few tumbleweeds?

Yes! There were actually tumbleweeds rolling down the road in the high winds.

And here's a granddaddy of a tumbleweed right here in the bucket of this bulldozer.

So all within 10 hours we had fog, sub-freezing cold with sheets of ice, bright sunshine and blue skies, warm temps, rain, hail, sun and blue skies a second time, high winds with rolling tumbleweeds, a dust storm, and bright and sunny blue skies once again.

Only in Lubbock.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Thing In Common

Today I was able to say that my sister Roma and I have one more thing in common.

Today I got Neil a handicapped placard. So now both my sister and I have husbands who have handicapped placards.

It'll be great to be able to find a decent parking space close to the door when I bring Neil for his doctors' appointments.

One time I had a hell of a hard time finding a parking space.

I had dropped Neil off at his orthopedic doctor's front door and had gone through the entire parking lot. On my second circuit of the lot, I was fortunate that I caught a car pulling out of a parking space.

If I hadn't been able to snag that space, I would have had to park in a different parking lot all together. And Neil would have been all that time on his crutches waiting for me.

So now we'll be able to get preferential rock star parking. Yay!

And I promise that I will only use that handicapped placard for business and not to find a good parking spot at the mall!

Big News

Today is my 3-month anniversary of arriving to Lubbock. And on this day I got offered the position of Therapeutic Assistant at the Therapeutic Learning Center.

It's simply amazing that I got a job here this fast. When I was in Massachusetts, I would be lucky if I was able to get one or two interviews in an entire year, let alone score an actual job.

(Speaking of interviews, I also have an interview for a Program and Activity Coordinator position with the Unitarian-Universalist Church this coming Thursday morning. It's a part-time position that would allow me to create my own schedule. Wouldn't it be great if I get that job too?!)

So today I went down to TLC to fill out the necessary paperwork, coordinate my training schedule (which starts tomorrow), and get my 2 uniform golf shirts (one black, one grey).

And after taking care of business at TLC, I went shopping for black scrub pants and wife-beaters to go underneath the uniform shirts (which have mesh inserts on the sides.)

Wow! I'm actually going to be working!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


One of the things that happens when you relocate 2100 miles away from your family and friends is that the old familiar traditions that were part of the fabric for your life become altered in dramatic ways.

Thanksgiving was the first major holiday that I spent in a new place. And frankly, I had no idea how it was going to go down.

No longer was Neil's mother's house to be the focal point where his family and my family converged on Thanksgiving.

No longer were Tony and Neil to discuss conspiracy theories around the dinner table or Ariana and Michael to look through each other's portfolios in front of the fireplace.

No longer were our mothers to chat over tea and pumpkin pie.

And no longer were Roma and I to brave the typically nasty, rainy, and raw weather to take Emi out for a walk and use that private time together to bond as sisters.

Ariana was invited to share Thanksgiving with Joe's family. So that left Neil and me to fend for ourselves.

Living in a new place far away from our families was going to require a new interpretation of the holiday, and perhaps a totally different departure from what we were accustomed to.

Because the 26th was also a Baha'i holy day (Day of the Covenant), Neil and I were going to go to a fellow Baha'is apartment to observe the holy day and enjoy a turkey diner. (That would certainly count as a radically different departure from our accustomed way of celebrating Turkey Day!) However, that event was canceled due to lack of interest.

So it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be just another day for Neil and me after all.

But along came Merry to save the day. She graciously invited Neil and me to come to her home in Brownfield to share Thanksgiving with her family.

Yay! We were going to have an actual sit-down family Thanksgiving feast!

In order not to appear empty-handed, I made what seemed like a promising recipe - Sweet 'n' Spicy Sweet Potatoes Recipe. (We were going to bring that dish to the Day of the Covenant, so I already had the ingredients.)

Well, things did not go according to plans as I hoped.

For one thing, I could have sworn that I had cayenne pepper. But when I looked in the cupboard, it wasn't there. No way was I going to drive down to the store, not the day before Thanksgiving. That would have been asking for trouble.

I was afraid that the crushed red pepper flakes would be a bit too hot for Neil. So I had to make do with
Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce. (I had to put in a generous amount before I could even begin to taste the barest hint of heat.)

After coating the sweet potato wedges with the sweet and spicy syrup, I saw that there was still a lot of syrup left over. Not wanting it to go to waste, I cut up the last 2 potatoes that I had and coated them. Because there was still more syrup left, 2 cut-up onions joined the spuds.

When I took the coated veggies out of the oven in order to stir them halfway through the roasting, the smoke detector went off. That was when I realized that I set the oven to 375 degrees instead of 350. I turned it down to 325 and prayed that the veggies would be saved from burning.

Every few minutes or so, I would have to jump up out of my chair and furiously wave a towel underneath the wailing smoke detector.

Well, the veggies came out OK. They weren't as good as I hoped. But they were edible and passable enough not to be embarrassing to bring to someone else's house.

At this point, it was looking as though I was going to be driving to Merry's alone. You see, Neil was coming down with something. He was experiencing stomach problems, aching joints, and a 101.2 fever.

Google Maps says that Merry's house in Brownfield is 1 hour and 2 minutes away from my apartment in Lubbock. Actually, the drive was more like 45 minutes, and that was driving at or below the speed limit.

I was warned about the speed traps in Ropesvile, which was about halfway between Lubbock and Brownfield. And sure enough, somewhere between the county line and the center of town, I saw a cop pass me on the left and flash his lights behind a car that was 3 cars ahead of me. And the thing was, that car could not have been going that much over the 70 mph speed limit. Are speed limits that strictly enforced in Texas?

Because Texas is still a whole new experience for me, I rather enjoyed my drive out to Brownfield. Because I was traveling west, I was driving way from the escarpment and further into the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains). So rather than seeing the canyons that are east of Lubbock, all I saw were flat plains which were mostly cotton fields. (I love that Texas big sky.)

The trip went by quickly, and soon enough I was at Merry's front door. As I arrived, her 2 kids Lena and Andy were outside peeling potatoes.

Merry is a big animal lover, and it was nice to once again be in a house filled with critters. In Merry's case it was 3 dogs and 4 cats.

In fact, the first animal face that I saw belonged to this darling little girl. I saw Pumpkin looking out the window as I approached the front door.

I got to meet the rest of the furry family after I went in.

Here's the family: Andy, Lena, and Merry with Gabe the very happy Golden Retriever.

We watched part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the National Dog Show while the turkey finished roasting.

Once the food was done and Merry said a prayer, we sat down to a lovely dinner of roast turkey and gravy, dressing (always a favorite), potatoes, corn, Merry's famous family apple salad (really tasty!), hot rolls, my sweet and spicy offering, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip.

The house was very quiet. The turkey made the kids sleepy, and Lena sacked out on the couch with Inky the black Lab (who so much reminded me of my Gomez). Merry and I chatted while the kids napped or quietly played on the computer.

5 hours after I arrived, it was time to leave. I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to get back home before the sun set. In fact, the sun did its final dance on the horizon as I pulled in front of our apartment.

I gave Neil his platter of Thanksgiving fixings and then put on Emi's harness to take her out for a walk.

And as I was walking the dog, I realized that one of the things that I liked about Thanksgiving - any Thanksgiving - was that it felt like a Sunday. And what was really neat about that was that 3 more "Sundays" followed it.

The whole rhythm of life changes at Thanksgiving. And sure the day after Thanksgiving may be this one massive commercialized consumer feeding frenzy that opens the Christmas shopping season for many people, but to me it's a time to enjoy a temporary disengagement from the mad rush of every day living.

Maybe I'll quietly stay home and address Christmas cards.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Lubbock Photo Safari

The past few days the playa lake at the Jan Jennings Park, where I bring the dogs for their walk, has been filled with Canada geese.

So after I walked the dogs and brought them back home, I returned with my camera to take some pix of the geese at the lake.

Because they are present all year round in Massachusetts, it is easy to forget that the Canada goose is a migratory bird.

Never have I seen this many geese in one spot. Get the roasting pan ready!

Many of the geese were along the edge of the lake.

But when I started walking towards them, they immediately made their way into the lake,

and began swimming away

to the other side.

It was amazing seeing all these geese in one spot.

The surface of the lake was covered with what could have been hundreds of birds. And God knows what it was like under the water's surface, with all those geese pooping in the water. The catfish and turtles were probably not to happy with the extra additives to the water.

Geese weren't the only birds I saw. Ducks also shared the lake with the Canada geese.

Not only that, there were even seagulls! I thought that I saw my last seagull just before I left the east coast. Who would have thought there would be seagulls in land-locked Lubbock?

This is what the dried up bottom of the playa lake looks like.

When I gave a quick glance at this, I thought it was a snake skin. After all, it was the same color and texture of a shed snake skin. But closer inspection revealed that it was a piece of bubble wrap.

Well, after taking pix of the geese at Jan Jennings Park, I wasn't quite ready to pack it up and go home. I was in the mood for taking more pix.

So I drove to another part of town, to Maxey Park, where the playa lake is much larger and has quite a few interesting features, like this lone tree in the middle of a tiny island.

A little bit beyond that tiny island is an uprooted dead tree that is a perfect resting place for larger shore birds like cormorants

and this white egret.

One of the reasons why I wanted to go to Maxey Park to take pix was because of its collection of interesting trees

And interesting tree roots.

This tree root looks like the ancient, weathered skeleton of some large and forgotten animal.

These roots look like a row of gravestones sticking out of the ground,

or something that you would see coming out of the ground in a dark and creepy cemetery in a scary horror movie.

I wasn't going to include this pic, but then I noticed the orb on the left. Could that be a ghost? Hmmm. It's somewhat fitting to have a ghost floating around in an area that would make a good setting for a horror flick.

These roots were quite extensive.

They look like something I would expect to see in the bayou.

There were also a lot of roots that would go into the water.

The root knots that were along the ground made some interesting patterns.

Can you see the face in this root knot?

There were grackles along the edge of the lake. (Grackles are considered to be a nuisance bird here in Lubbock.)

I had to use my zoom lens to take their pix because they would fly away whenever I tried to get near.

It was even difficult trying to take pix of the grackles in the trees. But I got lucky with this shot.

As the sun was setting, the moon was rising.

And by the way, did I mention that for the entire day the sky was a bright and beautiful, cloudless blue? Yup, that's true. Lubbock has lots of bright and sunny days. It's very easy to get used to this kind of weather.

Well, I was done with Maxey Park, but there was still one more place to go before I went home.

I drove back to where I started from - to my neck of the woods - because I just had to get some pix of a sight that one does not get to see very often in Lubbock.

After all what would a photo safari be without a camel?

This fellow, whose name is Caesar, is a rather large beast.

Doesn't Caesar's passenger look nice and comfy in between those 2 humps?

Caesar was working at Slide Road and the Loop, giving rides for $5.00 a pop. That was a bit too rich for my wallet.

So I just had to content myself to taking a pic of Caesar the 2-hump Bactrian camel.