Thursday, December 24, 2009

Serpentine and Watermelons of Repose

Last night, before bed, I sat on the guest bedroom floor with this computer and tapped for awhile to friends,  and loved ones for a bit, then watched whatever the Charlie Brown Christmas special is called.  Merry Christmas Charlie Brown?  Perhaps....
Must be interesting watching Charlie Brown if your a depressed person... a source of humorous torture, or something.  The show is remarkably true to Shultz's downbeat creation.  I had forgotten that.  In any case, it's a fun show.   Something nice to end my second (!) day with my Mom and Dad.

Earlier in the evening I discovered to my total shock that I had accidentally grabbed my version of the book I bought my father for Christmas (a sort of ridiculous pean to himself by James Lipton, on Inside the Actors Studio, a guilty pleasure of mine, back when I was crazy enough to watch TV.... all night long sometimes.)  Lipton is sometimes unintentionally hilarious, like his posture (which is so bent, it suggests he must have been a slouching orphan for the first few decades of his life) and other times, like with his early book (An Exaltation of Larks) about the fanciful names in English for groups of animals (Jenny and Ande I think you would be highly interested in this) Lipton verges into an almost perfect imitation of a clueless academic, who knows all about, but nothin' much dead on.  You know the sort of names I mean (apparently a group of larks, is an "exaltation")  a "murder" of Crows, a "pride" of Lions, a "Clan" of Rednecks (all animals have some kind of name.)  I'd love to meet the clown who named a group of fish a "school."  Schools of fish have extraordinary behaviors, which have been schooling us for decades... perhaps the cad who named fish "schools" somehow just knew they'd play a role in studies of emergence.  Jeez, I'll ask Mr. Lipton: "Say, Jim, what's your favorite word?  What's your favorite color?  What's a group of Three Toed Sloths called?"

He'd answer every question, deadpan, "authentic, Andy.  Quite... Authentic is my favorite word."  Keepin' it real, Jim.

I'm sitting in my parents living room, and have been looking at the glowing mountains for a few minutes here.  One mountain top is purple, others are dark already.  More or less a hilariously nice view.  People ask me all the time, "So, you going to Arizona for Christmas?"  Oftentimes I just say, "yes."  I'm not always in the mood explaining how very un Arizona this place is.  Though Arizona is nothing to complain about in the winter.  I loved living there one winter years ago.  Amazing place.

All day long I've been thinking about what looks like Serpentine, a green rock used in buildings, and for sculpture:  it sorta looks like green marble.  I saw this "serpentine" while passing through the "canyon" which is the part of Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque that you take to get  to my parents on Highway 14, the so called Turquoise Trail, which was, I suppose the original highway to Santa Fe.  In any case, it goes there.  My parents are between one third and halfway up 14 to Santa Fe, in Sandia Park, named after the Sandia Mountains, which in English, somewhat hilariously, are Watermelon Mountains.  How the hell did they get that name?  You would think Watermelons (which are from Africa) would not possibly have reached New Spain (Mexico, and portions of the Southwestern U.S,) till three or four hundred years ago.  And the minute someone saw these mountains the sun just left dark for the evening, all they could think of was "Watermelon," Sandia?  Oh well, Spaniards had a lot on their minds, with the Blood of Christ Mountains in Santa Fe, the Sangre de Christo's, and other macabre manifestations to contend with (like killing the natives) perhaps there was a winking irony in naming these New Mexico red sun dappled piles of rock after fruit:  not the blood of the Savior, but big juicy balls of fruit.  Sure.

What's wonderful about these mountains is that they arent' granite, like their northernmost neighbors, the Rocky Mountains, for the most part are.  The mountains here are, when you look at them, comprised of tilted beds of sedimentary sandstone, limestone, and some kind of metamorphic rock, which is always a sedimentary rock, heated and put under huge pressures until it bends.  From what I have read, and common sense, the  rock here was originally either sand dunes, or ocean bottom.  Limestone, in Bloomington, came from the great inland sea's that covered North America a number of times prior to the last great glaciation of the earth, twenty thousand years ago.  They say we're still warming up from that freeze up.

In any case, the rock's here were sediments like sand and silt, compressed and baked like a kiln until the silicates melted and fused rock together.  The reason I mention this, is that something strange happened after that.  Unlike the Rockies, with originated due to a series of great orogenies (a fantastic, seemingly lewd word that means "springing from the earth due to strange, mysterious forces in the mantle.) the mountains here began as a huge flat expanse of desert sand, or ocean bottom, dried up (or not.)  Slowly these huge many mile across chunks fractured from one another, somehow.  And each chunk, due to the fact that it is not only huge across (above the ground) but three dimensionally huge (below the ground, the entire thing know as Terrain) begins to float, somewhat, on the Earths mantle.  And slowly a huge series of chunks all would tilt sideways, until they are at a thirty to forty five degree angle.  Exposing the great rock from deep in the earth, on their backsides, and plunging the previous above ground sediment from the ocean or desert, deep into the ground.  Of course at the top of this half buried cube, is what was at one time flat ground, like the deck of the Titanic, now sticking way the hell up in the air.  After thousands of years of erosion, all of this gets rounded off, and plants take up habitat, and snow falls on the gracefully curving features in winter.  You have what are undeniably mountains.  But if you look carefully you can still see the carefully laid down layers of the millions of years when there were no mountains for hundreds of miles around.  It's, more or less, completely nuts.  And cool. And fun.  And what Darwin studied, in order to develop a new conception of time, so as to imagine lengths of time long enough to watch a Finch's beak change it's shape.  Tens of millions of years makes a hell of a picture show.

And of course, God did it all for me.

Merry Christmas from the Watermelon Mountains.

Note:  My Geology describes the famous Basin and Range "Terrain" of the Southwestern United States. My cousin Tim's friend Andrew came to visit on my last evening with my parents, and, I got a chance to ask about these "sedimentary" mountains.  Andrew was cool enough to point out that the part of the mountain I was looking at was granite sheathed in a "thin" layer of sedimentary rock.  On the other side of the mountain, the granite was exposed by the dropping of the Rio Grande Fault.  And the mountains here were caused by the Rio Grande Fault, not my basin and range idea, which is what I wrote above.  I was a little embarrassed to be so wrong, but enlightened by his wonderful explanation (and lifetime advocation.)

It wasn't my "fault."  Puns.... low humor for a lowdown fool.


Harlequin said...

thanks for the beautiful pictures you create with your words; I continue to be impressed with how you also convey mood and place so very well.
happy day, Andy...

Andy Coffey said...

Well, Harlequin,

My day is certainly happier seeing your words. Its such a pleasure to write for people things that you think just might bring a smile to their face, and share an enthusiasm that bores your regular friends. This silly blog is such a mental health release for me. And you have been so much fun, in your writings and in sharing the life you lead. Thanks. And Happy Holidays.

Jenny said...

Hi Andy,

Now you made me curious of who this Lipton person is. I will do some googling. It is often the unintentional that is the funniest. But more than a couple of people have told me I have the weirdest sense of humor they have ever seen. Oh well.

I joined some mild celebration. However, I am not celebrating traditions, personally. But anyways, Merry Christmas.

The sun is almost red here this time of year, as well.

Andy Coffey said...

Merry Christmas Jenny,

In America we have stickers for your car that say, "Keep [your city] weird." And this is an honest desire on most people's part. So I hope you stay weird, Jenny. It's your patriotic duty!

James Lipton is just an American Intellectual involved with Method acting in Hollywood acting (Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert Deniro, James Dean, even Marlyn Monroe!) Method acting was first popularized by the Group Theatre in New York City in the 1930s and was subsequently advanced by Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio from the 1940s until his death in 1982. It was derived from the system created by Konstantin Stanislavski (this last sentence from Wikipedia.) Anyhow, Lipton is involved with this group, and has a TV show on Bravo (cable network) which interviews actors sometimes who have been in what's called the Actor's Studio.

So, anyway, keep weird... but watch bad television by all means!!

Ande said...

Lipton sounds interesting, hmm, the numbers of captivating “weirdo’s” you’ve housed during the 1900s in the us by far surpass european counterparts. I sometimes get overwhelmed by the richness of American history during the 20th century. Always interesting to encounter someone new.

I hope you are enjoying yourself on the mountains, Andy. I looked up Watermelon Mountains. Seems like a fine place celebrating a holiday on. Beautiful.

Can you (and do you) go skiing this time of year? I like the idea of sandstone mountains. Must feel strange walking on a mountain made of sand stone somehow.

Midnight Whisperer said...

I loved this. Such beautiful imagery was created in your words... I could almost taste the air. I hope your holiday vacation saw you well, from the sounds of it, they did. What a beautiful backdrop of scenery to complete the portrait.

Mariana Soffer said...

Interesting post, left me thinking.
Merry Xmas for you mr coffin.

Anonymous said...

Quite educational post. And furthermore I mean it