Friday, February 26, 2010

Mata Ortiz at Cabot's Pueblo Museum

Last Sunday we took a drive down to Desert Hot Springs to Cabot's Pueblo Museum. The place was hand built in the Hopi style by a colorful character named Cabot Yerxa. Most of the pueblo is closed off--only about four of the 35 rooms are open on the tour. Note: only take this tour if you are willing to stand on hard floors in tiny, windowless rooms hearing about the life of Cabot Yerxa in excruciating detail. Bill and I bailed on the tour after the second room! In our opinion, it's far better just to enjoy the funkiness of it all from the outside.

The big draw that day was a demonstration by potters from Mata Ortiz, Mexico. We watched master potter Tavo Silveira form this pot from scratch.

There's an extensive gift shop which is worth visiting any time. On this day it was filled with Mata Ortiz pottery. I did buy a souvenir: a tiny pot with bunnies on it--perfect for the desert!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tecopa--Tiny Place, Big Soul

I had heard about Tecopa and its hot springs from friends, so I jumped at the chance to go there and take part in a poetry reading. Tecopa is located on an ancient lakebed in the Amargosa Valley. The above photo shows Grimshaw Lake on the far side of town.

After a leisurely drive through the Mojave Preserve, Phyllis and I checked into the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort. Here's the combined office/art gallery. The gallery was having a Spoken Word exhibit with poems posted on the walls.

Rooms at the resort have been newly redone and come with 24/7 access to hot tubs filled with amazingly silky mineral water. Apparently the water at Baden Baden has the same silky texture. And this is so much closer to home!

The poetry reading took place in Pastel's Bistro, where Chef John Muccio makes the most incredible food I've enjoyed anywhere in the desert. Here are John and resort owner Amy Noel. They'll take great care of you when you visit!

The poetry reading brought together a roomful of fascinating people. We met Brian Brown, owner of the China Ranch Date Farm; Mary Burke-King, who runs the Tecopa Basin Artists Group; John Salacan and Asyra Ivanova, both poets, who live in nearby Pahrump, Nevada and operate a book restoration business, Salacan Studio, as well as White Raven Press; a fellow who recited the prologue of the Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English; a recorder player from Los Angeles who treated us to music on bass and tenor recorders; and more!

Phyllis bought an otherworldly photo taken by Amy titled "Sustenance," which shows an avocado viewed through a window on a rainy day. We left this gem of a place knowing that we'll be back!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Road Trip to Tecopa, Part 1: Amboy & Mojave Preserve

On Sunday my friend Phyllis and I hit the road: destination, Tecopa Hot Springs. We took the back way through Amboy and the Mojave National Preserve. Our first stop was Roy's Cafe, where we went in to find out if it's really going to reopen. Right now they're selling snack food only. We talked to a security guard who said that indeed, not only the cafe but also the motel will be renovated. They were acquired by the guy who owns the Juan Pollo charbroiled chicken restaurants. So there you have it!

I had never been to the preserve before, so the drive was full of wonders. We were lucky to have dramatic skies with lots of weather moving through.

We stopped at Kelso Depot and toured the museum. The exhibits give a good feeling for what life was like at the depot way back when. There are also good exhibits on Indian artifacts and the Kelso dunes--complete with a recording of that booming sound they make. The Desert Light Gallery downstairs is showing photographs by Jim Smart through April 25.

Botanical highlights of the drive included the first yellow blooms of bladderpod and a rocky hillside studded with brilliant reddish barrel cacti.

My favorite things in the preserve were the cinder cones. There are over 30 of them! This one has particularly dramatic coloring. Lava flowed here as recently as 8-10,000 years ago.

Next week: Tecopa itself--prepare to be amazed!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Back on September 19 of last year, I wrote about my great-grandfather Walter Macomber, who invented a rotary engine. He was also a photographer. When he was 21 years old he started a photography business in Augusta, Michigan (a suburb of Battle Creek). He did that for three years before moving west to be an engineer with Croesus Mining Company in Johannesburg, CA.

He continued to take photographs for the rest of his life, and an album of his hand-colored prints has come down through the family. Here are a few of them. The above shot is captioned "Mojave Desert." Over time, the hand coloring on this one has definitely taken on a Technicolor aspect!

Below are "Laguna Beach" and "Santa Barbara Mission." Most likely these photographs were taken in the 1920s or earlier.

Finally, here's a mystery shot. No caption. If anybody has an idea about what this is or where it is, please let me know!

Thanks to Bill for scanning these images.