Mel Again

Mel, my 96-year-old friend in Midland, is obstinately holding me to my promise to continue visiting him as long as he keeps himself alive, so this year I decided it would be a lot cheaper and more fun to drive back to Midland rather than getting there by airplane and rental car. Especially since I have friends more or less enroute with whom I can visit…while mooching a night’s lodging.

I first drove to Santa Fe to visit my friends Dick and Susan, which was not a good visit because I was trying too hard to be a good guest and was thus not any fun. Still, they were very nice to me, and for once I got a pic I like of a friend. Here’s Susan hating her first ride on the Segway:

susan

My next stop was at Charmazel’s in Albuquerque. A gorgeous fall day in the Old Town square:

foliage

Like Dick and Susan, she was too gracious to refuse my request to visit, but I chose a horribly inconvenient time for her, also, so I left before I got too much in the way. Here’s a shot on the highway north of Roswell that I thought revealed a dry, New Mexico humor:

gusty

Finally, in Midland, for the first time on the trip I felt like I was a positive force. I stayed several days with Mel and helped around the house by doing things his deceased son might have done: cleaning out his kitchen cabinets, organizing his pantry, hauling loads of trash out to the dumpster in the alley, etc. One day I cooked dinner for him and the neighbors whose assistance has made possible his continuing to live in his own home. It’s so good to feel useful. Here’s Mel on his porch:

mel

The day I left Midland, it was not exactly sand storming, but there were strong winds and a good deal of blowing dust. Here’s a sign on the road toward Goldsmith just west of the Odessa – Andrews highway that I kinda thought said it all:

adoption

Well, yes, the pretty ones are easier to place.

I lived in a Stanolind oil camp west of Goldsmith from 1952 to 1955. At that time, Goldsmith was a dusty little oilfield town twenty miles northwest of Odessa, and it had a barber shop, a movie theater, an elementary school, a couple of grocery stores, a couple of cafés (which is what we called small restaurants), three or four churches, and several bars.  Hell, it even had a public swimming pool.

By now, most of the buildings have been torn down or simply abandoned, and few appear to be occupied. Here’s the school building, the blinds blowing in the wind.

school

In the fifties, the country around Goldsmith was dotted with oil camps like the one I lived in, but no trace of them remains. There was a bend in the highway just at the entrance of the camp I lived in, so I was able to pinpoint the location of the camp and look closely at the site. Still, even only a few meters from the location of where the first house in the double row would been, I could see no evidence of them. How could they have simply disappeared? I would have walked out into the field to look for the low concrete foundations that they had rested on, but the pic doesn’t show the “No Trespassing” sign and some kind of oilfield building a hundred meters off to the left with trucks around it. Didn’t want to stir up the natives, me driving a leftist car with California plates.

camp

All those poles you see were put in for power to run the pumps for the oil wells, many of which are still producing.

From Goldsmith I drove west through Notrees, Kermit, and Wink. In my Journal 2002 I wrote about life in an oil camp out from Notrees, and for about a year in 1948 I lived in a camp out on the other side of Wink. Nothing except the post office remains in Notrees now, Kermit is literally falling into ruins, and virtually nothing is left of Wink. It is such a strange feeling to go back “only” half a century later and find so little left, and what is left, mostly abandoned. Here’s an interesting building out near Pyote off I-20:

Pyote

I continued west, stopping at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to view their famed collection. Alas, their Haworthias and close relatives were in a greenhouse that was closed for repairs, as were the Mesembryanthemaceae. The consolation was that they had lots of the Agavaceae outdoors. I mean, what’s not to like here? Well, maybe except it being three meters tall…and growing.

Agave

I was deeply saddened when Mel’s neighbor in Midland asked me how fast the Prius would go and I realized that I had had the thing for two years and had no idea what the top speed is. Made me feel really, really, really old, so I resolved to open ‘er up when I was out on the mostly deserted oilfield roads west of Midland on the way home.

But then I got so entertained by poking around in the oil patch that I totally forgot to test the top speed. And then I remembered somewhere in Arizona, but by that time I was on an interstate with lots of other traffic and didn’t feel good about top-end testing.

So I may have to go online to get this information. All I can say now is that at 80 MPH (130 KPH), which I might point out is the legal speed limit on the interstate in western Texas, it feels like it’s got lots left.

In Palm Springs, I basked by Bob’s pool and wrote. And how could I go to Palm Springs without this picture. Check out that high hanging fruit:

Palm Springs palm

And then, back home. A good trip although I have to say I don’t really enjoy that grind up the valley after coasting down off the Tehachapis.

 

OK, it’s December and autumn in San Francisco.  Many deciduous trees here don’t drop their leaves, but the ginkgos do.  Here’s a decorated Prius:

ginkgo leaf Prius

And finally, to end the year, a pic that incorporates several of my fetishes:

market street

 

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