Submissions

August, 2017

A Column As I See ‘em:
Barks, Growls and Howls from the Heartland of Southwest Suburbia
“Five Tools to look your Summer Best” by Gershon Siegel

Here we are, smack in mid-summer — flowers are blooming brightly and the birds are chirping spritely. Cool rain is falling in abundant amounts and for high desert country the terrain seems downright verdant. And talk about good sleeping weather. Of what is there to complain?

And yet, there will be those, like myself, whose psyche tends to see “the glass half empty.” We will always find something over which to grumble even in the best of times. Not that I’m making any claims about how great these times are, you understand. To some of us, without doubt, these times must seem horrific. See what I mean about the glass half empty?

Just so you know, I earned my well-restrained joy honestly as I come from a long line of whiners. It’s in my DNA to be “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Although we were Jewish we might as well have been illiterate Buddhists who only learned the doctrine of “non-attachment.“ The message in my family was, “Don’t get too excited about your good luck because it won’t last.”

All those early lessons in pessimism left their mark. My freshman high school English teacher wrote on one of my essays, “Such cynicism in one so young.” Fortunately, as girls began to loom larger in my life, my vanity short-circuited my penchant for pessimism. By my junior year I gathered that whining was an unflattering behavior. Desperate to look good, I tried hiding my awesome ability to find fault.

As it turned out, however, my talent for criticizing kept raising its ugly head. My preponderant propensity for passing judgment continued to challenge whatever resolve I had to suppress it. Desperate to enhance my image, I took up collecting techniques to help manage my unbecoming moaning.

Should you find yourself needing your own anti-grousing gizmo, by all means, borrow one of mine. Below is a list of five tools I’ve found useful to keep unattractive negativity at bay. You will notice that these items move along a scale starting with “reactive” and becoming “proactive.”

Be advised that the most reactive tools at the top of the list are employed as last resorts — relied upon when you’ve been caught by surprise and any pointed commentary you speak will create unwanted consequences. These tools come in handy during a job interview or when your girlfriend asks if her brightly flowered dress makes her look fat.

The proactive tools toward the bottom of the list require a bit more skill. Repeated practice may be required to run them with confidence. The good news is that the more one learns how the proactive tools work the less one needs to use the reactive ones.

Tool #1 – Biting of The Tongue
The most reactive of all methods, I recommend this practice only in case of emergencies. Like maybe when you’re waking up and haven’t yet had coffee. Make no mistake — though basic and crude, this technique works. Be aware, however, one can really hurt oneself if one uses too much pressure. This tool works best for those who enjoy the taste of their own blood. The good news is that of all the bodily organs, the tongue is one of the quickest to heal.

Tool #2 – Denial                                                                                                                                                       You can’t deny the power of denial even though it’s gotten lots of lousy press. Denial has its place in the toolbox but is best used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Denying your urge to play on Facebook when you have more important things to do is good. Denying that unbridled fossil fuel burning effects the planet’s atmosphere is bad. Like Tool #1, relying solely on this one technique is problematic. 

Tool #3 – This Too Shall Pass                                                                                                                                    This self-calming device is used to remind you that the current irritating situation in your face is temporary. Since the undesired condition requires that you get through it one way or the other there’s no need to point out the obvious. This will only make the state of affairs worse. To run this tool effectively one must keep in mind the notion of life’s impermanence, knowing that the only constant is change.

Tool #4 – No Outlet                                                                                                                                                 This tool comes with a lifetime guarantee — be assured that simple escape from some situations is not a good option. Often, grace and beauty are revealed through a simple acceptance that this is how your life turned out. Be aware that only a rich mixture of kindness, love and understanding keeps this tool running smoothly. 

Tool #5 – Standing in Paradise                                                                                                                             Of all these tools to help you stay positive, this one is the most proactive as it requires an ongoing enthusiastic attitude. To properly use it you must know that paradise is wherever you happen to be. In order to even start this device one must remember that whatever the situation, it doesn’t get any better than this. If the grass looks greener on the other side then it’s time to water your own grass.

This tool may also be the most difficult to master. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t yet have the skills to keep it sharp, well oiled and working. There’s always tongue biting. And don’t forget — we’re in the middle of summer — flowers are blooming brightly and the birds are chirping spritely. And it’s good sleeping weather.

Gershon Siegel first started column writing in 1966 for “The Beacon,” his high school newspaper. He served as its feature editor for the majority of his senior year until a series of “misunderstandings” caused his unceremonious dismissal by Principal Bates.

July, 2017

A Column As I See ‘em:
Barks, Growls and Howls from the Heartland of Southwest Suburbia

“A Tail of Three Kitties” by Gershon Siegel

Two winters ago our dear Maine Coon cat, Shams, went “walk-about” and we have not seen him since. My Beloved was pretty well devastated. Sham’s brother, Rumi, was so upset he developed numerous skin twitches. Our vet said this was not that unusual and prescribed Prozac.

After some long, cold months of mourning Shams, Beloved broached the subject of finding another cat to fill the void both she and Rumi still felt. She believed there was another cat out there that might be a cuddle-buddy to Rumi as Shams had been. I was dubious.

In fact, I was more than dubious. I just didn’t think another cat would be welcomed into our house by the remaining felines. I put out an ultimatum to the Beloved: if she found a cat that would snuggle, cuddle and sleep with Rumi, I’d never doubt her again. Me and my big mouth.

Where I had lived with only my teenage son and our loner-of-a-cat, Schmoopy, there were now three new household members for which to make room. However, Schmoopy, my 12-year-old, longhaired Himalayan, was not as congenial as I was. Until then he had been the one and only feline — the Top Cat, The Big Guy.

Rumi began to abscond with all of Schmoopy’s favorite perches — over the refrigerator, on the kitchen table or even the foot of my bed. The Beloved’s herd of quadrupeds now filled out the other side of our queen-sized mattress. I felt bad that Schmoopy couldn’t stand up to Rumi. In fact, I felt so bad that I consulted an animal communicator.

The animal communicator thought that Schmoopy’s name might be the problem — perhaps calling him “Schmoopy” was emasculating. She suggested that I “ask” him to “tell” me his name. Hey, it’s Santa Fe after all.

When I got home that day, I found Schmoopy sprawled on the kitchen table. “What’s your real name?” I asked. Out of nowhere into my head, I swear, came “Jake.” Fair enough. Stranger things have happened. So I tried calling him “Jake” but the name never stuck and he continued to cower and run away whenever Rumi came near.

In addition, before the arrival of Shams and Rumi I had usually left a sliding door opened enough for Schmoopy/Jake’s free access to the outdoors. Rumi and Shams, on the other hand, had lived in cages for two years and they necessitated a litter box.

Now, when Schmoopy/Jake heard “nature’s call” he was forced to sit by the door and whimper his rare and almost inaudible mew. To be let back inside, he would sit on the backyard wall, peering in through the kitchen window until one of us noticed.

After a few months I was able to convince the Beloved that Shams and Rumi would benefit from going out into the yard. She agreed but only as long as one of us was supervising. As the brothers learned the joys of the great outdoors, I was pleased that the litter box needed less frequent attending.

Things were turning out “roses, roses” except that Schmoopy/Jake continued giving Rumi a wide berth. Then, tragedy struck when Shams turned up missing. We posted pictures of Shams throughout the neighborhood to no avail. The Beloved walked around the block, in the bitter cold winter wind, calling his name. She contacted the vet and posted photos on our community’s lost pets web-page. Days, weeks, months went by. Hope was lost.

The Beloved made numerous trips to a couple of animal shelters and pet stores and frequently checked a festival of websites for the perfect cat. On occasion she’d answer bulletin-board flyers posted for cats needing another home.

Shams had been an extraordinary cat and so I remained skeptical. As far as I was concerned, he could not be replaced. I was certain Rumi felt the same way.

The day before Thanksgiving, the Beloved returned home from Albuquerque with the most adorable three-month-old tabby kitten I had ever seen. All my skepticism, along with my heart, melted. We very quickly named the new arrival after the fearless and trendy “Hunger Games” movie heroine, “Katness,” but we often called her “Cuteness” or even “Her Cuteness.”

Much to my surprise and amazement, Katness and Rumi began to cuddle and sleep together. Rumi’s twitch has all but disappeared and he’s off the Prozac. Schmoopy/Jake has found other places on which to sprawl.

I nurse a secret hope that Beloved won’t hold me to never doubting her again. But I doubt it.

Gershon Siegel first started column writing in 1966 for “The Beacon,” his high school newspaper. He served as its feature editor for the majority of his senior year until a series of “misunderstandings” caused his unceremonious dismissal by Principal Bates.

June, 2017

A Column As I See ‘em:
Barks, Growls and Howls from the Heartland of Southwest Suburbia
by Gershon Siegel

Socrates said, “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” Today’s version of this wisdom amounts to, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” No doubt the cynics among us will try to find a friend whose life has given him tequila.

But let’s face it; a trip to “Margaritaville” won’t help a bad marriage or any other situation needing serious attention. Denial, of course, can sing an alluring, if rather short Siren song, but it leaves us tied to mast, as it were. Much of life requires we negotiate hurdles or otherwise accommodate one bothersome adjustment after the other.

The good news — the challenges we jump over, crawl under or somehow overcome are the very things moving us forward. The bad news — I hate change — just as I’m getting comfortable, I must modify my position, learn a new skill, alter a belief or make some other uninvited amendment. Creature of habit that I am, a gerbil’s simple life, spinning endlessly on its exercise wheel holds a certain attraction for me.

As a champion of routine, I enjoy the comfort of the same-old-same-old. Let’s chalk it up to a “risk-avoidance” gene swimming around in my DNA. As I’ve said so many times, before, “I’ll go anywhere, as long as it’s in Eldorado.”

Yet, even a gerbil becomes bored at times and spins its wheel in the opposite direction. This must be one of the reasons I was attracted to my beloved. Keeping up with her, my intuition whispered, would require occasional forays from my comfort zone. She’s most always ready for an adventure, eager to see something different, whether a drive in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, an afternoon at Abiquiu Lake or a camp out in Chaco Canyon.

It’s true these excursions are not major expeditions into parts unknown. But left to my own inclinations, I might be forever content to bicycle up and down Herrada Road. After all, it’s just been paved and has been nominated for the best engineered two-lane in Santa Fe County. Still, the beloved is not impressed and insists an occasional change of scenery is good for the both of us.

Yet, even a gerbil becomes bored at times and spins its wheel in the opposite direction. This must be one of the reasons I was attracted to my beloved. Keeping up with her, my intuition whispered, would require occasional forays from my comfort zone. She’s most always ready for an adventure, eager to see something different, whether a drive in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, an afternoon at Abiquiu Lake or a camp out in Chaco Canyon.

It’s true these excursions are not major expeditions into parts unknown. But left to my own inclinations, I might be forever content to bicycle up and down Herrada Road. After all, it’s just been paved and has been nominated for the best engineered two-lane in Santa Fe County. Still, the beloved is not impressed and insists an occasional change of scenery is good for the both of us.

We know little of Socrates’ wife, Xanthippe. She was said to be much younger than he and contemporaries accused her of being something of a shrew. Socrates himself claimed he chose Xanthippe because of her argumentative spirit. Maybe he figured he needed a push toward becoming a philosopher. Maybe I just like the taste of lemonade.

Gershon Siegel first started column writing in 1966 for “The Beacon,” his high school newspaper. He served as its feature editor for the majority of his senior year until a series of “misunderstanding ” caused his unceremonious dismissal by Principal Bates.

Botanic Garden . . . or not?
by Milicent McFarland

When is a Botanic Garden not a garden? When it is the site of former gold mining from the 1880’s , high in the Ortiz Mountains above the Village of Cerrillos.

The Ortiz Mountain Educational Preserve, off Goldmine Road, is 1,350 acres of amazing habitat—both plant and animal. Historic artifacts abound, including ruins of a hotel, a three-hole outhouse, and remnants of the first NM rail line.

It is also considered a habitat for wild animals, including black bear, mountain lion and eagles. A protected colony of Townsend Bats live there, using the mine tunnels for winter hibernation. The Preserve also contains sacred sites of the Santo Domingo Pueblo.

But this unique place is currently off limits to the very taxpayers who paid $380,00 in 2007 to make it County Open Space. Santa Fe Botanic Garden, who has managed it since 2001, abruptly abandoned the site, leaving the County to create a management plan.

Just like the former gold companies who stripped the gold from the land and left with their profits, SFBG took taxpayer money for land they had received free and then deserted the Preserve.

In a May 20, 2015 article by Thomas Ragan in the Santa Fe Reporter, Clayton Bass, CEO of the Santa Fe Botanic Garden, admitted that 80% of the $380,000 was used to finance the Museum Hill expansion.

The Ortiz docents, all volunteers, who have been leading tours and hikes at the site since 2001, are waiting to see if the County will keep the Ortiz accessible to the public. For fourteen years, visitors have been driven up the steep two-mile access road to the site to learn the history, geology and biology of this unique place. People of all ages and physical ability have been able to experience this high altitude refuge, reveling in the peace and beauty—because they were driven in private cars. No accidents were reported in all this time. The County has been giving its tacit approval to these drives for the past seven years.

Santa Fe County Open Space will meet with Ortiz docents on Thursday, June 4 at 2:00 in the Cerrillos Hills State Park Visitor Center to discuss management plans. Let’s hope the County maintains the same level of accessibility as we have had for the past fourteen years.

May, 2017

This month we introduce a new angle to The Corridor – a column by Eldorado fixture and political gadfly (also the former writer, editor and publisher of the famed Eldorado Sun), none other than Mr. Gershon Siegel. Take it away, Gershon . . .

A Column As I See ‘em:
Barks, Growls and Howls from the Heartland of Southwest Suburbia

by Gershon Siegel

Don’t Ask!

How often do you run into an acquaintance wanting to know what you’ve been “doing” lately? It’s seems an innocent enough question. Yet, when this happens to me, it often feels like I’m on trial, about to be judged. I’ve been known to panic. Years ago at a high school reunion a former classmate asked me that question. The next thing I remember was waking up in the emergency room with severe hives all over my body.

For those of us already wondering about our right to take up space on the planet, “What are you doing?” can be a challenging question. In our culture, simply “being” doesn’t really justify the amount of food, water and air we consume. Because, let’s face it — we’re not pet turtles.

The dilemma of the what-are-you-doing-question can have me frantically ransacking through my mental file cabinets. There I’ll scan crumpled lists; duties performed, projects discarded, setbacks endured and other assorted debris of life’s vagaries. Before answering, I might gauge the inquirer and his or her reason for asking. Are they really interested or just looking to critique my sorry excuse of a life?

If I’m feeling secure, without needing to be validated, perhaps I’ll share some trite incident — the latest movie seen or book read. Sometimes I’ll deflect “the question” altogether with a mundane, yet amusing story. Embellishing the multiple
Nigerian-accented scam calls from “Special IRS Agent Bob Smith” has worked more than once.

Should the questioner be a pretty good friend, my off-the-shelf answer to “What am I doing?” is often, “As little as possible.” And, to put a finer point on it, I might add, “On my tombstone will be engraved, ‘Work was very overrated.’” The wisecrack often fetches something of a giggle, allowing me to hop over the existential abyss without so much as bumping a shin.

But let’s not blame my penchant for idle mincing on my advanced age. Blame it instead upon a misspent youth watching TV in the 50s and 60s. Am I alone in confessing that a significant slice of my calcified wisdom was gleaned from situation comedies? Am I correct in remembering that nearly all those heads-of-households seemed joyfully unemployed?

On occasion, Robert Young carried a briefcase in “Father Knows Best,” but what did he do for a living? Without a job, Fred MacMurry supported, not only his three sons, but also a 75-year-old houseboy played by William Frawley. And Frawley’s previous long-running character, Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” did nothing but trade insults with his wife Ethel. Lucy’s husband, Ricky — he was a bandleader, for Christ’s sake! You call that a job?

Ozzie Nelson never even bothered to carry a briefcase. It’s a wonder Harriet kept her cool with him hanging around the house all day. Did Ozzie even have a hobby? All these freeloading TV father figures sent a clear message — unemployment was its own reward.

Ironically enough, it was the “Dick Van Dyke Show” that sold me on the virtue of idleness. True, Rob Petrie did commute daily to work, but it was to go write comedy with Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie. Ricky Ricardo’s band leading seemed a more solid career than making up jokes all day for Carl Reiner’s fake TV show.

One particular episode proved foundational in shaping my work ethic. Mary Tyler Moore’s character, Laura Petrie, had just seen husband Rob out the door to catch his morning train into Manhattan. The telephone rings, Laura answers and a man with a charming Italian accent says, “Hello.”

Intrigued by the stranger’s voice, Laura innocently flirts, “Hello,” back. The anonymous caller then asks seductively, “What are you doing?” Captivated, Laura coos, “Nothing,” in her patented ingénue/little girl voice.

Intrigued by the stranger’s voice, Laura innocently flirts, “Hello,” back. The anonymous caller then asks seductively, “What are you doing?” Captivated, Laura coos, “Nothing,” in her patented ingénue/little girl voice. The stranger remarks, “Dolce far niente,” which, he tells Laura, means “how sweet to do nothing.”

Thus was planted the “dilly dally” seed deep within the verdant soil of my 13-year-old psyche. Fertilized, as it’s been, by an innate reluctance to learn what doesn’t come easily, that seed germinated and thrived. Now trimmed dense by habitual procrastination, it is a fully matured hedge lining my life’s winding path of least resistance.

In the meantime, when next we happen to meet, let’s stick to talking about the movies or the weather. Or, if you’d rather, we could discuss the plight of the polar bear or the California drought. You might even enjoy hearing me imitate Special Agent Bob Smith’s Nigerian accent. But please, refrain from asking what I’ve been doing lately. Unless, of course, you’re prepared to call an ambulance while I break out in severe hives.

Gershon Siegel first started column writing in 1966 for “The Beacon,” his high school newspaper. He served as its feature editor for the majority of his senior year until a series of “misunderstandings” caused his unceremonious dismissal by Principal Bates.