The Mesoamerican Context for Chaco Astronomy — Gambler’s House

Today is the summer solstice, so I thought I’d pop back in to do a post about archaeoastronomy, as is my wont. This time it isn’t about the archaeoastronomy of Chaco Canyon per se, but the larger context in which it would have developed, namely that of the civilizations of Mesoamerica to the south. I’ve […]

via The Mesoamerican Context for Chaco Astronomy — Gambler’s House

From “Gambler’s House” – The First Family of Chaco

A fascinating and important article about Chaco was published last week in Nature Communications, an open-access offshoot of the venerable journal Nature (already a good sign). Since it’s open-access, the full text of the article is available free online here. The researchers behind the article, based mainly at Penn State and Harvard but also including […]

via The First Family of Chaco — Gambler’s House

Much Ado About Walls

I had no idea so many people like walls! And not just archaeologists or architects.

So tonight, I give you a friendly wall from Salmon Ruins, New Mexico, one of the Chaco outliers.

Some of you may see a face.Face_Wall

(Did you know there’s a word for that? It’s called pareidolia, and derives from our tendency to look for familiar patterns in random objects.)

Some of you may see two faces.

What do you see? A pensive wall, a grumpy wall, a happy wall?  Let me know.  I think Mr. (or Ms.) Wall needs a name.

If you really, really love Chacoan walls (and who doesn’t?) and you’re on Facebook, be sure to check out the Chaco Canyon Project, where Gary Gackstatter celebrates all things Chacoan. You should see his photographs. Join the Chaco Tribe!

As subtle as running into a brick wall….

Is it just archaeologists and archaeology-buffs who take pictures of walls? Or do others get excited, and can’t help exclaiming, “Look at that masonry!” CasaRinconadaWallHere’s some gorgeous stonework at Casa Rinconada in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. (AD 1075-1250s)

A Penguin and a T-Rex Walk Into a Bar

I’m not quite sure where I read about the Chama River Microbar in Albuquerque, but I was curious as to why I had scribbled the bar’s name and address in the margins of my Moon’s New Mexico Handbook. ChamaDogs I’d arrived in town two days ahead of the scheduled start of my Chaco Canyon tour and, after enjoying the city’s museums, decided to have a little adventure Friday evening. To save money, I’d booked a cheap room at the funky Route 66 Hostel, conveniently located between old town and downtown, and decided to forgo a rental car and instead use the local buses. (Hey, $2 for an all-day pass! That’s hard to beat.) Yes, this means I was riding the bus by myself at night….pssst….don’t tell my mom; no matter how old I get she’s forever telling me to not travel alone in a strange city.

I almost missed the place, which is literally a hole in the wall on 2nd Street, just a block from the Alvarado Transit Center (a major bus/train transfer point). With the gentrified-sounding “microbar” in its name, I expected something other than a small bar with half a dozen stools, maybe four tables, and what looked like an iPod-centered music system. Positive I must’ve read a recommendation for this bar in some travel magazine, I hesitated for a brief second. This didn’t look like the sort of place travelers frequent. It’s too small and too easy miss.

But as I stood in the doorway, Ado and Scotty greeted me. Who? you ask. Ado and Scotty – that’s the two dogs there in the photo. Their relaxed stances, wiggling butts, and wagging tails told me all I needed to know. I held out my hand for them to sniff and promptly got licked, and licked, and licked. You know how it is with the dogs. I petted them and asked their permission to enter. And they made a path for me, trailing behind. The tables were full, so I plopped my butt down on the last stool at the end of the bar.

PenguinAtChamaA couple of reviews I’ve since read were critical of the bar’s atmosphere: its “locals only” feel, an inattentive bartender, and “not safe for women” vibe. But I experienced nothing like that. Certainly, I kept my day pack slung across my back – but I always keep my money and ID close to me when traveling. I was instantly welcomed by the bartender, who gave me a taste test of their available brews. (The Microbar is listed as a tasting room for the Chama River Brewery on the north side of Albuquerque.) I spent a friendly evening chatting, first with the bartender and Adam, the patron on the stool next to me and then with Aaron (who replaced Adam who had to leave) about Albuquerque and Chaco Canyon. I’m certain I was the only out-of-towner in the bar, but no one treated me any different. Heck, even the couple at the end of the bar shared their pizza with me! (The microbar doesn’t serve food, but you can request delivery from any number of nearby food establishments.)

And no one laughed when I pulled Penguin About Town out of my pack and posed him next to a glass of the Chama River Amber Ale. I figured he’d had a tough day, nearly getting devoured by Stan, the T-Rex at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. He needed a drink and a friendly welcome to Albuquerque. So did I. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening: a couple of dogs, a dozen or so humans, and a stuffed penguin. It didn’t matter how far any of us had traveled to get there, or why anyone was there. Only the beer and the conversation mattered. Words. Drink. Time. All cocooned in a non-descript hole in the wall that the average tourist would walk right past.PenguinAtMuseum

Roads Not Yet Taken

During the past few months I’ve talked about places I’ve been, but only hinted at all those other wonderful places I’d like to visit on our beautiful planet.  With a new year fast approaching, it has come time to plan…and to dream…of future travels.

I don’t think of it as a bucket list. To me, that’s always sounded like you’re trying to score points in some strange competition just before you die. I don’t want to be one of those people who wait until they’re retired to go around the world (and around and around). After all, can you be totally assured that you’ll be able to travel when you’re 70?  You may not have the finances or the health (the physical mobility). As I once said to friends while explaining why I go the places I go: “I’m choosing the furthest destinations, the most diffcult to get to, now before I’m unable. I’ll visit places closer to home when I’m old and decrepit.”

Not that I won’t sneak in a short hop to one of my dream destinations: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico Image (home to ancestral Puebloan peoples between 850 and 1250 AD). As an archeaology major, I’ve always been fascinated by ancient ruins and what they tell us about the cultures who built them. Visit Chaco’s National Park Service website to learn more about this fascinating place. Maybe we’ll see each other there.

The other place on my short list is Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). ImageClimbing to the summit  has long been a dream of mine, although I’m not 100% certain of the origins of that dream. I believe I was first introduced to the idea through Willard Price, an author I’ve mentioned previously.  Although I don’t recall his teenage heros, Hal and Roger, ever actually visitng Mount Kilimanjaro, many of Price’s books take place on the African continent (African Adventure, Elephant Adventure, Safari Adventure, Lion Adventure, Gorilla Adventure). Amazing how books we read as children can have such a lasting effect upon us!

While dreams are fun, and necessary!, we can’t just dream. We have to live. So Chaco and Kilimanjaro aren’t just on my list, they’re on my next-five-years list. Planning is under way.

Now, if I can just keep myself from getting distracted by all sorts of other interesting places which seem to continually pop up in travel brochures, National Geographic Traveler magazine, or on Discovery Channel specials. Does this happen to you? I see yet another new place, and my list just keeps growing: Mongolia, Bhutan,ImageEaster Island, Croatia, Churchill (Manitoba), Palau, Key West, Costa Rica, Belize, Midway Island, etc., etc., etc.

Where do you want to go?