Friday, January 26, 2018

Looie, Looie, Oh, Oh, Me Gotta Go


 Santa Fe’s historic plaza area is looking for a loo.
“City floats plan for public restroom near Plaza,” read the headline in the Santa Fe New Mexican. And that newspaper later editorialized “A Plaza potty? Yes, please” – arguing, among other things, “that Santa Fe has a Margarita Trail, directing people to the best places to enjoy the ubiquitous cocktail. Develop a Potty Trail, so that visitors can check their phones and find what’s available at a glance”.
The search even made news in the Albuquerque media –  “Santa Fe Loo proposal makes a splash” according to KRQE News 13; and “‘Santa Fe Loo’ may be coming to provide relief, “ according to the Albuquerque Journal.
And website Tripadvisor has long criticized Santa Fe as a “Tourist trap without restrooms,”
It is something that Marsha and I have known about for twenty-five years since we first began vacationing in “The City Different”.  On our first visit here in 1992, in order to quickly familiarize ourselves with the history and layout of New Mexico’s capitol city, we went on one of the Tours-by-Locals walks of the downtown area.
And one of the first things that we learned – even before the story behind the unauthorized chiseling away of  “savage Indians” from the Civil War-era memorial statue in the center of the Santa Fe Plaza; or Billy the Kid’s part-time Hotel La Fonda dishwasher job; or the difference between Pueblo and Territorial architecture; or how the Masonic Temple is allowed to be neither; or the spot where the Santa Fe Trail ended – was that (at that time) the place to go, if you had to go (if you know what I mean) was the downtown branch of the Santa Fe Public Library – during open hours. 
This tip was presented to us tourists as an insider’s way to cope with the indelicate situation of a worldwide tourist destination without any public facilities to handle its visitor’s most delicate situations.  To compound the problem, the next piece of info our guide shared was that, because of the 7,500 for high altitude and dry climate, we needed to hydrate much, much more than we were used to.
Public restrooms are things you shouldn’t have to think about – but I remember two in particular.
I think my favorite public men’s room was in the Cape Cod town of Chatham, Massachusetts.  It was during the time when our son was still small, but old enough to be on his own for certain things.  The restroom at Chatham had urinals that extended down to the floor – suitable for users of all heights – facilitating an important male rite of passage
Budapest Hungary, like Santa Fe, had no public restrooms in certain parts of the city and surrounding areas.  A problem they solved by turning the toilets at every restaurant into a pay-for-pee establishment.  A basket was placed on a table by the necessity rooms into which drop-in lavatory “customers” were expected to deposit a coin of a certain amount.  I don’t remember the exact cost.  Hungary’s currency is the Forint (currency code HUF), which then and now exchanges with the dollar at about 250 to one.  Lunch for two could cost 5,000 HUFs.  Relieving yourself was about seventy-five Forints – and worth every penny (or whatever).
After a quarter century of vacations, and nine months of residency, Marsha and I have come up with our own set of workarounds to the Plaza potty problem.  During that time a new convention center with public restrooms opened within a few blocks of the plaza.  Unfortunately its business hours are more limited than the library.  Also the New Mexico History Museum was built right around the corner from the center of the area.  Originally the venue was apparently supposed to have public restrooms.  And it does – sort of.  They are located down the hall to the left, past the gift store.  You do not need to purchase admission to enter.  But there are no signs to tell that to the visitor.  If you gotta go, you just have to know. 
And then there is the La Fonda hotel across the street from southeast corner of the Plaza.  The number of people coming and going in that venue easily allows a desperate intruder to slip in and out of their facilities without notice.
This year’s proposed solution to the situation is what has come to be called the “Santa Fe Loo” – a one person at a time, stand-alone (so to speak) kiosk, which would be placed in a currently unused lot a couple of blocks from the center at a cost of around $130,000.
As reported in the New Mexican: “The loo would come from a Portland, Ore., company, The Portland Loo, which manufactures the stainless steel restrooms and could ship one to Santa Fe intact, the city memo states.
“The loo is lightweight and ‘open,’ according to a schematic from the manufacturer. Louvers, or open slats, ring the 10-foot-tall unit at the top and bottom. The lower slats are angled, the schematic says, to allow law enforcement to observe how many are within the stall without infringing on a user’s privacy.”
No one, at least publicly, seems to like the idea.  None of the five candidates for the March 2018 mayoral election support it.  But nobody seems to have a better idea either.
I myself kind of like what I will call the modified-Budapest solution.  Turn every restaurant into a “pee for a fee” facility.  For those tourists who no longer carry cash develop an app similar to those that allows electronic donations to panhandlers.  I would suggest $1.00 as a reasonable price.  Like the Canadian’s “Loonie” 

We could call it the “Looie”.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

So What About the Windmill?

“After a day’s work, as I rested on the porch steps in the fading daylight, I could hear the sucker rods of the old wooden windmill lifting water.” (Etchings on the Heart by Susan A. Holland in New mexico Magazine, February 2018)

Rancho Viejo at Santa Fe, where Marsha and I now live, is divided into three Home Owner Associations: Entrada, South Community (“Windmill Ridge”), and North Community (“The Village”).  Even though our home is in North Rancho Viejo the south Community’s windmill is clearly visible to us every day as we walk the desert trails – as a result the first question that we had when we moved here in September 2017 was, “so what about the windmill?”    


In his self-published book “The Memoirs of Larry Meyer” one of the original owners of Rancho Viejo recalls their major problem in developing the land, “First of all there was no water on the property – only several windmills – so if we were going to develop it, we had to find water.” 

Unbeknownst to this city-born-and-raised/suburban adult northeasterner, there were apparently parts of the United States that did not have the luxury of municipally supplied water.  Hence the now landmark symbol of and eponymous name source for our neighboring HOA community to the south.

Actually a form of water pump, windmills in the southwest were once a necessary way of supplying “Adam’s ale” for cattle and crop irrigation, but were largely abandoned when electric and gasoline motors came on the scene.  “Early documents refer to use of windmills…in Persia in 644 A.D.” were they were used to “grind grain” according to the book “Windmills and Dreams”.  They appeared in Europe in the 12th century.

On August 29, 1854, Daniel Halladay a machinist, inventor, and businessman from Connecticut patented the first commercially viable windmill – “Halladay’s Self-Governing Windmill” – after having been approached to work on the design by Ellington, Connecticut businessman, John Burnham. Burnham was in the pump business and realized that with a reliable way to bring ground water to the surface he could significantly increase business.  “Halladay’s Self-Governing Windmill” automatically turned to face the prevailing wind direction, and maintained a uniform speed by changing the pitch of the sails – with no human oversight.  The device would stand still during a storm by turning the edges of its sail wings to face into the wind, and then gradually redeploy them to resume operation when the storm ended.  It successfully drew water from as deep and twenty-five feet and moved it more than 100 feet into a reservoir.   The windmill itself sold for $50.00, with pumps and pipes costing an additional $25.00.  Halladay later moved his business to be closer to his western customer, forming the U.S. Wind Engine and Pipe Company of Batavia, Illinois.

Another highly successful brand of water pumping windmills for the southwest was the “Eclipse” produced by Morse and Company and invented by Leonard Wheeler, a Presbyterian minister who was working among the Ojibwe Indians on the south shore of Lake Superior.  He perfected the device in the privacy of his missionary homestead using it to draw water for his house for nearly two decades.  In 1866 ill health forced him to return to his hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin and seek a different career.  A cousin of his, Samuel Shipman, convinced him to patent the machine (US Patent No, 68674).  The “Eclipse” used a secondary vane, which shifted angles, and was held in position by weights through a series of pulleys to keep the windmill pointed at the optimum angle at all times.  The galvanized steel tower stood thirty feet tall with a six foot in diameter steel wheel.  The original Montgomery Ward Company (1872 – 2001) – a dry goods mail-order business out of Chicago Illinois distributed the machine.

Wheeler’s windmill was initially manufactured by L.H. Wheeler and Sons and was exhibited at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with Halladay’s Self-Governing Windmill, and two other companies.  Charles Morse later purchased an interest in the company and merged it with Fairbanks Company to form Fairbanks, Morse & Co.  Morse asserted the reasons for the machine’s success as:

1.     “windmills could be shipped in pieces and yet assembled and erected with simple tools by people of ordinary ability;

2.     their parts were interchangeable, and thus repair were simple;

3.     windmills were made from durable materials; proper wood painted for protection and steel which had been protected by galvanizing;

4.     a minimum amount of material was used, cost of raw materials, transportation, and erection was kept at an economical level;

5.     lubrication problems were solved after the introduction of the self-principle early in this century; and;

6.     finally, and perhaps most importantly, the American were self-governing.”

These windmills allowed ranchers in New Mexico to graze their cattle over many square miles of the arid high desert land.  In the Santa Fe area cattle farms such as the old Lamy/Simpson Ranch and others used the technology – dotting the landscape with the tall, gawky, feathered water pumps.  Several of these machines survive today: to the west of Casa del Oro; near the old Pueblo Indian sites on the Simpson property; near Lamy; in the vicinity of St. Vincent Hospital; close to the Wheelwright Museum; going north on I-25 to the southwest; visible in the distance on the drive along The Turquoise Trail; behind the Guadalupe Credit Union on Mimbres lane off of Rodeo Road; and on the grounds of the San Marcos Seed Store and Café on Route 14; and one, believed to be an Eclipse, that is still operating in Eldorado just outside the second entrance and across U.S. Highway 285 from Avenida Vista Grande.

In a 1997 interview for the book “Windmills and Dreams – A History of the Eldorado Community and Neighboring Areas” Robert Dobyn recalled his summers visiting at the Lamy Ranch on the property that is now Eldorado.

“Water was always a problem here….you know where they have the Old Ranch Road and the art barns of U.S. 285, right behind the dump – there are two wells back there…We used to have windmills on that.  When you had windmills and you were running cattle, back in ’72, you were allotted commercial water rights, and that’s where AMREP [the initial Eldorado developer] got their water.  They consolidated all the windmills, and obviously they weren’t going to use the windmills…

 “Where my parents lived in downtown Santa Fe, we had a windmill.  It’s still [1997] there.  Windmills were real common.  There’s a ton of them.  This one is on Old Santa Fe Trail by Kaune’s [Market], where I was raised…The windmill operates on the suction principle.  Basically it’s a piece of pipe with what you call “leathers”, and the leathers swell and suction around the pipe.  The leathers wear out and you have to replace them.  That means you have to pull the pipes out, and that a lot of work, and we’d have to do that (on the ranch).  That’s how the cattle depended on water.  We’d build natural holding tanks in the arroyos (as well).”

The Rancho Viejo windmill is located at the corner of Saddleback Mesa and Mineral Hill, and was manufactured by the Aeromotor Windmill Company of Chicago, Illinois.  The company is still in business, now located in San Angelo, Texas. 

The Aeromotor was first developed in 1883 by a mechanical and civil engineer named Thomas O. Perry who (according to the company’s website) “had previously worked for U.S. Wind Engine Company, of Batavia, Illinois, and had conducted over 5,000 scientific tests on 61 different experimental wind wheels. These tests had been meticulously conducted indoors under controlled conditions, by mounting 5 ft. diameter steel test wheels on a steam driven arm, which provided constant artificial wind. His best test wheel was 87% more efficient than the common wood wheels in use at the time.” The U. S. Wind Engine Company however showed no interest in utilizing Perry’s discoveries. But LaVerne Noyes, a Chicago manufacturer of dictionary stands and farm equipment, recognized the potential and encouraged Perry to develop this “truly scientific steel windmill.”

Derisively called the “mathematical windmill” by its competitors Aeromotor sold only twenty-four windmills in 1888, its first year.  In 1892 they sold 20,000 of the machines, and “Aermotor was on its way to becoming the world’s dominant windmill.”

Because in most cases these devices shipped to rural locations in the southwest where they were assembled and put into operation by their owners, the manufacturers do not have detailed records of their locations.  Thus, I have not been able to find any other information about the Windmill Ridge landmark.

I believe it can be fairly said that the self-governing windmill was a major factor in how the west was won.  Although the mill at Rancho Viejo no longer pumps water – the sound of the sucker rod’s up-and-down motion and rotating metal blades can still be heard, reminding us of the role these devices played in Rancho Viejo’s, and New Mexico’s, history.

Photos by Marsha

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Starting to Feel at Home

When you have been vacationing in an area for a quarter century, and then you relocate there, it can be really difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that this time it is not just a sabbatical from which you have to return.  But Marsha and I are getting there.
When we first arrived this May, we rented Airbnbs in South Capitol, then in Upper Canyon Road – two of the prime areas in town for tourists to stay at because of the “easy walk into the Plaza” with all of its museums, restaurants and other activities.  And while we were there we took full advantage of the downtown proximity to enjoy some much-needed R and R.
But we soon discovered when we began house hunting – which was the only non-leisure activity we actually had to do – that, other than our son and daughter-in-law’s neighborhood; we really didn’t know any spots that weren’t sightseer sections of town.  Anything that wasn’t in those spots seemed to be, to our small-town east-coast way of thinking, too far from the “real” Santa Fe.  A belief that we fostered on a daily basis by trekking into town and playing tourist.  But we gradually began to disabuse ourselves of that notion at realtor open houses that brought us to a rural area south of Santa Fe that we had not even known existed – and is now the place that we now call home.
On our more recent visits during the past fifteen years we have stayed either in a home at which we “dog sat” for friends of Monica and Bram – or in a rented small house (casita) to the northwest of the Plaza, and like our Airbnbs within downtown walking distance.   The canine-watching gig was situated in the hills northeast of town with numerous empty acres of desert between large houses that were only reachable via multiple unimproved roads.  It is often said of Santa Fe that the worse the road, the pricier the house– ergo, that was not a viable prospect for our residential pursuits.  As for the casita area, it is ninety-five percent rental properties – a nice place to visit…
But both of these locations did force us to experience some of the parts of everyday life that most vacationers may not need to encounter – such as basic grocery shopping.  Before we moved out here a fellow health club member with no clearly no knowledge of where we were going asked me, “Do they, like, have grocery stores out there?” 
I assured him that they did indeed – as well as roads, although as mentioned previously the more prestigious ones are dry dirt with more ruts than stones.  Shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods at least once a month is mandatory in Santa Fe.  (There actually might be an ordinance.)  Plus there are two grocery chains – Albertson’s and Smith’s – for more ordinary folks.  And another one named Sprouts, which, like Marsha and I, occupies the middle ground between the two retail food extremes.
Another result of our history of temporary living conditions, which also makes it harder to realize that we are no longer just on vacation here, is that we seem to have become quick adapters at making ourselves at home in stranger’s houses. 
As a result we seem to quickly overcome many of the telltale tests that indicate temporary residency, such as: an inability to fetch and put away the dinnerware without thinking which section of the drawer the property owner decided they should be in; and continually hitting your hit your head on the same bedroom ceiling light fixture   (unique to 600 square foot rental casitas with six-and-one-half foot ceilings).
I personally find our rapid adaptability to temporary housing pretty impressive considering that before moving to Santa Fe we lived in the same Wethersfield Connecticut home for forty years and basically only made one change when we remodeled the kitchen about half way through our tenure there.
However one thing we had not done previously out here – or actually any place other than our home base – was to get haircuts.  Needing a quick fix we discovered a chain called “Great Clips”, one of which was located a few blocks from our first Airbnb.  And which also, it turns out, has another shop a short drive from our new adobe abode.  Although in Connecticut we had a series of regular hair stylists (first Patty who retired, then Donna who retired, then Kelly), at Great Clips it is the luck of the draw.  And this less personalized approach (sometimes Maria, sometimes Yolanda) seems to be working just fine – even though each time they say it is “nice to meet you.”  This is not so surprising for me who on their computer data base “clip notes” is listed as a “all over [machine cut with the blade set] at 4.”  Less expectedly for Marsha whose cut requires more nuance and attention, and who has actively worked for years with the aforementioned “CT Three” to get it just right.
It turns out that in order to feel at home somewhere, you actually don’t need to be where everybody knows your name.


Culture Wars

Marsha and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the same reasons that we vacationed there – its unique combination of art, architecture, outdoor activities, museums, food, people and overall cultural/open-air ambience. 
But “The City Different” is not just a tourist Shangri-la.  It is also a real city dealing with real city issues – albeit ones that never came up on our radar back in quiet New England.   For example there is this pending clash between the fine arts and a less rarified leisure activity.  The Teseque Indian Pueblo is planning on building a Casino-Hotel Resort on land that it owns adjacent to the Santa Fe Opera.   And it brings to the surface an underlying tension in “The City Different” between those residents who basically just want their hometown to be a place with good paying jobs, decent schools, and affordable housing – and what I will call the Townie-Tourists (double Ts) who just want to settle down among all those things that attracted us here as visitors.
(BTW – one in six houses within the city limits of Santa Fe are owned by out-of-staters.  I suspect that just about all of these owners of second or perhaps third homes are members of the double-T group.  And may have even more of a tourist-centric viewpoint than the rest of us.)
Now, The Santa Fe Opera is a world-renowned venue for classical musical theater that plays host to a variety of operas each summer.  Situated on a mesa with panoramic views of the surrounding high desert of New Mexico, the audience faces west toward an ever-changing horizon of sunsets and thunderstorms, which are frequently visible throughout many productions when no backdrops are used.  Sixteen percent of the jobs in Santa Fe, about 9,800, come directly or indirectly from tourism.  And the opera is one of the town’s major visitor attractions whose impact on New Mexico's economy has been calculated at more than $200 million each year according to the Americans for the Arts web site.

Marsha and I attended our first SF Opera performance this past summer – “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.”  It was her initial opera experience and my second.  My introduction was arguably more extravaganza than musical art – a presentation of “Turandot” at the Hartford Connecticut Civic Center featuring a menagerie of animals (including several camels) marching across the dirt-covered basketball court which sat atop the hockey rink. Steve Jobs was the perfect opera for us – or me anyway – ninety minutes, one act, entirely in English.  And the desert sunset was more impressive than the long-legged desert animals.
The potential casino site is wholly owned and controlled by the Tesque Pueblo, which has the total legal right to build whatever they wish on the land with no outside oversight.  So it is definitely going to happen.
However, as reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican, “Unknown is what effect - if any - traffic, noise and light from the development will have on the open-air, summertime opera, where the night sky seen from the hilltop theater is as much a part of the experience as the arias.”
The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce says the new casino will bring jobs and visitors to the city and that the Tesuque Pueblo and The Santa Fe Opera will be able to work together to address the opera’s concerns. “I think they can respect each other as neighbors.”
But, as one likely double T letter writer opined, “It is impossible to imagine how any design could solve the problem of lights and traffic noise that inevitably would effect the opera…Has [the developer] ever attended our opera, and does he understand what conditions a required for a successful performance?”
And a non-opera lover observed sarcastically that he was certain “[the casino] will be overrun by all these expensively dressed, elites driving their Range Rovers and Porsches before and after every opera.”  (For the record – we drive a bright red Jeep Renegade.)
Meanwhile at the south end of town – ours actually – The Flying J Corporation is attempting to build a new Truck Stop (what they call a “Travel Center”) at the north end of the scenic Turquoise Trail and within a few miles of several semi-rural communities (including Rancho Viejo) – at the entry point for most first time drivers into Santa Fe.
Accusations of “ruining the character of our city” and “ambient light destroying the black star-lit heavens above us” versus charges of “looking down on hard-working truck drivers who deliver the food you eat” and “trying to preserve your precious, imaginary little town” fly in the editorial pages and at town meetings.  The developer and their supporters argue that the truck stop will bring more jobs to the city.  Jobs are a good thing.  In fact Marsha and I would not be in a position to oppose this project if we had not had interesting, well-paying ones.  Unlike the casino issue – the outcome of the truck stop looks to be in doubt.  For one thing a Truck Stop already exists about twenty minutes south of this site at the San Felipe Travel Center and Casino.
Also there are other squabbles.  In a bitterly debated referendum, last May the voters turned down a proposal by Mayor Javier Gonzales to establish a sugar tax on soda in order to fund a Pre-Kindergarten program in the schools.    

And certain members of the Catholic Spanish Community once again enraged the local Indian population with their annual public celebration of the “Entrada” wherein they reenact what they say was the friendly welcome that the Spaniards, under the guidance of the Virgin Mary, received from the Pueblo Indians when the Conquistadors arrived in Santa Fe.  The Native Americans remember the event as being considerably more coercive, violent, bloody and deadly.  This quarrel has festered for many years, even resulting in the placement of police sharpshooters on the rooftops around the town Plaza in order to prevent violence last year.  Eight demonstrators were arrested this time.  The charges were later dismissed.
 It seems that fervently felt internal disagreements are as much a part of the character of the City Different as are the art, architecture, outdoor activities, museums, food, people and overall cultural/open-air ambience that attracted us and many others. 
But, at the end of the day, Marsha and I still have the sunset: either descending behind the nearby Jemez Mountains as seen from our back yard patio; or spreading across the endless sky on our drive home from the independent contemporary arts cinematheque on Old Pecos Trail; or abstractly portrayed on canvas by Georgia O’Keeffe; or turning the adobe walls on Canyon Road a subtle shade of pink. 
Or – we can only hope  – radiating through the open backdrop at the Santa Fe Opera.